By Michael D. Evans
The 2014 election has the potential to be historic. With control of both the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and the Fresno City Council on the line, there is the real potential of a progressive majority on both bodies for the first time in, well, forever.
The Board of Supervisors will see two new faces after the 2014 election as both incumbents for seats on this year’s ballot are retiring—Phil Larson in District 1 and Judy Case in District 4. Both of these incumbent Republicans represent districts that are heavily Latino and have a Democratic registration advantage. Given that the Board of Supervisors does not have term limits, the 2014 winners might well be entrenched for some time to come.
Most of the candidates for these two supervisorial races participated in the Feb. 22 Fresno Partnership Board of Supervisors Candidate Forum. This was the first forum for Board of Supervisors candidates in this election cycle. Four of the six candidates in District 4 and all four candidates in District 1 participated.
District 1 Candidates
Board of Supervisors District 1 includes the western towns of Firebaugh, Kerman, Mendota and San Joaquin, the surrounding rural areas, and west Fresno. The candidates are as follows:
John Flores (D–Mendota) is the pastor of the Rivers of Living Waters Christian Church and is a former member of the Mendota City Council. “I truly believe that I can make a difference in District 1 concerning all the communities of the west side…because they all need attention,” notes Flores. “If I am elected, I can look for funds to help these communities to have alternative sources of income, job creation and future sustainability.”
Flores intends to focus on public safety, social services, industry and budget accountability and is concerned about water, unemployment, rural community industries and public education. He strongly advocates “addressing the needs of operating the jail facilities and the continuance of prevention activities through community and youth programs.”
Brian Pacheco (D–Kerman) is a dairy farmer and a member of the Kerman Unified School District Board of Trustees. “Our community and its future are very important to me,” says Pacheco. “I want to try and bring good and better jobs to Fresno. I believe in public safety, and I believe our kids are our future.”
On his campaign Web site, Pacheco has opted to focus on endorsements rather than issues. The endorsement list reads like a Who’s Who of the local Republican establishment, along with public safety groups and farm leaders. “Law enforcement is obviously a key for me,” says Pacheco. “But we need to have social programs to help our youth so that we do have better opportunities for them in the future. That’s my primary focus in this campaign.”
Blong Xiong (D–Fresno) currently represents District 1 on the Fresno City Council, but he will term out this year after having served two terms on that body. “I want to continue to do my public service,” says Xiong. “Whether we’re fighting for water, whether we’re fighting for jobs or we’re making sure that our community is safe, I just want to make sure that we are equitably represented.”
The key issues that Xiong has identified for his campaign include fighting crime on a regional basis, securing a predictable water supply, getting the county its fair share of resources, increasing job growth, working with educators to ensure an educated workforce and helping residents access county health services. He intends to “move past the politics of division and gridlock and bring people together to get things done.”
Gary Yep (R–Kerman) is the mayor of Kerman and a co-owner of the Valley Food Super Center. “I want to make Fresno County a better place for my kids,” says Yep. He wants to “balance the budget, create a positive atmosphere for businesses to flourish and bring water to the Central Valley.”
Yep’s primary areas of interest are water (“we have to fight smarter”), jobs (“I know what it takes to create jobs”), crime (“our county jail system should not be a revolving door”) and the budget (“identify and cut waste”). “Our Board of Supervisors must be focused on protecting and expanding our water supply, on attracting and growing businesses and good paying jobs, and on clearing our neighborhoods of violent crime.”
District 4 Candidates
Board of Supervisors District 4 covers southern Fresno County and includes Coalinga, Huron, Fowler, Selma, Kingsburg, Parlier, Reedley and Orange Cove, and the surrounding communities. It is the only supervisorial district that does not come into the city of Fresno. The candidates are as follows:
Magdalena Gomez (D–Parlier) is the Central Valley outreach coordinator for Tenants Together. She is running “to be the voice of my community and its needs and to give them a better life.” Gomez hopes “to achieve fairness and equitable representation on the Board.”
For Gomez, the key issues are jobs, agriculture and crime. “A strong workforce, combined with a flowing water supply and comprehensive immigration reform legislation make up the whole and healthy body of a robust agriculture economy,” says Gomez. She adds that “the root of crime is poor education, high poverty, low opportunities and lack of mental health funds.”
Ernest “Buddy” Mendes (R–Riverdale) is a dairy farmer and member of both the Riverdale Unified School District Board and Riverdale Public Utility District Board. “We need to have [on the Board of Supervisors] a combination of somebody that has business experience and has government experience, which I have both,” says Mendes.
Like Pacheco, Mendes has used his campaign Web site to showcase endorsements rather than issues. His endorsement list includes Republican elected officials, many farmers and public safety organizations. “I would like to make sure that we have a good advocate for water because water is the basic building block of the economy,” says Mendes, “and next is public safety.”
Daniel Parra (D–Fowler) is mayor pro-tem of Fowler and has been a computer systems analyst at Northrop Grumman’s NAS Lemoore facility for more than 20 years. “I want to get representation for my rural communities,” says Parra. “I feel that with the five board members being city-oriented we miss out on services…I just want to make a difference.”
Parra touts his role in the revitalization of downtown Fowler through the use of RDA funds. He is additionally focused on job creation, health and access to healthy foods and open space for the community. He wants to “get more resources out to the people that need them in the communities whether it be assistance with homelessness, food, [and] especially with this drought, we have a lot of people that are unemployed. We need services and some help.”
Steve Rapada (D–Reedley) is the chief business officer for First 5 Fresno County and a former member of the Reedley City Council. “I believe that we need good representation for every community [in District 4],” says Rapada. “We need someone who will travel to each community, speak to the people and find out all of their needs and work hard to achieve those for them.”
Rapada has emphasized public safety, jobs and the economy, and an open-door policy (“I will never forget you are the reason why I am your representative”). “Hopefully, we will be able to combat some of the issues of high unemployment out in the rural communities, bringing some opportunities for retail out to our communities,” says Rapada. He also wants “to find ways to work with all our legislators to find solutions to our water problems as farming is, of course, throughout the county, but especially in District 4, a huge part of our economy.”
Two other candidates have announced in District 4: Alan E. Cade Jr. (R–Sanger) and Amandip Singh Gill. Neither participated in the Board of Supervisors candidate forum, and neither appears to have a campaign Web site.
(Author’s note: The filing deadline is March 7, so it is possible that additional candidates will announce for either of these Board of Supervisors races.)
Primary Election Day in 2014 is June 3. The last day to register to vote will be May 19. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed to voters starting May 5.
If a candidate in either Board of Supervisors race gets more than 50% of the vote in June, he/she will be elected outright. If no candidate surpasses 50%, then the top two vote-getters advance to a November runoff. The last time there was an open seat on the Board of Supervisors, when District 2 Supervisor Susan Anderson stepped down in 2012, the election was decided in June.
Michael D. Evans is a political activist, editor and writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.