Central Valley Progressive PAC

Central Valley Progressive PAC

CVPPAC Endorsed Candidates Head to the November General Election

By Mike Rhodes

The June primary election resulted in some good news. Several progressive candidates endorsed by the CVPPAC have advanced to the general election in November. Brian Pacheco won 79% of the vote, winning outright. Congratulations to the following:



Aileen Rizo
State Assembly District 23




Melissa Hurtado
State Senate District 14




Jose Sigala
State Assembly District 26




Brian Pacheco
Fresno County Board of Supervisors District 1



Daren Miller, the CVPPAC-endorsed candidate in Fresno City Council District 3, was six  2 votes away from being in the runoff as of June 20. When the election is certified, he could be in a November runoff with Miguel Arias. At this time, the race is too close to call.

Nelson Esparza will face Brian Whelan in District 7 and from what we know about the two candidates, progressives will come out in large numbers for Esparza, who is endorsed by the Central Labor Council and the Democratic Party. Whelan has the endorsements of Republican Mayor Lee Brand, Chief of Police Jerry Dyer and Clint Olivier, the current District 7 representative. If you support the right-wing mantra of cutting taxes, deregulation and privatization, you will love Whelan. If not, Esparza is your guy.

The CVPPAC had endorsed Veva Islas in this Fresno City Council race, but unfortunately, she came in third. See her statement to the CVPPAC in the box on this page.

If the Fresno City Council races play out as expected, there will be a shift to the left. If Esparza wins in District 7, Arias or Miller wins in District 3 and Chavez wins the District 5 race, they will join Soria in District 1 and that will give them four out of seven votes, a majority that could be used to nudge politics to the left in Fresno. On the right are Garry Bredefeld, Steve Brandau and the Democrat (in name only) Paul Caprioglio.

Soria ran unopposed in June and Chavez is facing Paula Yang, who we will learn more about in the coming months. The future of the City of Fresno politics will depend on what happens this November in the District 5 and 7 races.

The recurring rumor is that Esparza, Arias, Chavez and Soria are part of a group that would like to gain power and shift public policy in a more centrist direction, which would be an improvement given the right-wing’s current control at Fresno City Hall.

When asked why she was hopeful about the general election in November, CVPPAC Vice President Loretta Kensinger said, “In these incredibly bleak, overwhelmingly mean-spirited, authoritarian, chaotic days, if we want a world built on different values then there is really no choice but to be engaged in any and every way we can, and that includes electorally.

“I am inspired by the sheer number of large-scale organizing campaigns going on: the immigrant rights activists, the youth-led movement to end gun violence, the Black Lives Matter actions, the teacher walk-outs, the women’s marches, the LGBTQ movements, the “me too” movement, those organizing for healthcare for all, the water protectors, the poor peoples’ movement, housing activists, etc. The sheer pluck of that stalwart group of local folk who have stood vigil at Rep. [Devin] Nunes’ office keeps my hope up.

“I am emboldened when I remember many share a belief that a country should not be judged by how wealthy it is, but by how it treats its most vulnerable and its neighbors. To create change, we need to link together and push from without, but we need people inside existing structures who think they represent more than their donors and the economic elite.

“The election is one tool to help change our political climate. Getting better voices in office by electing those whose values sit closer to the side of a progressive vision can help those pushing in other arenas to build the change we desire. The fact that we have some good candidates this year who are quite different from many of those currently wielding power I hope inspires us all.”

The general election in November will include several races for the Fresno Unified School Board, which the CVPPAC will take a close look at. The CVPPAC would like to see trustees elected who support the teachers and students in the District and resist the ever-present impulse from the administration to put more resources into management and the militarization of our schools.

With the national momentum to oust the Republicans, our endorsed candidates running for the State Assembly and Senate have a good chance of winning. The race for the Congressional District 22 will be a national focus as Trump lapdog Devin Nunes hopefully will be defeated by Andrew Janz.

I asked Simone Cranston-Rhodes, the CVPPAC secretary, for her views about developing a strategic plan for the general election. She said, “Looking at the 2018 Primary Election results as a 28-year-old woman living in the Central Valley something stuck out to me. Nearly 50% of all the people who voted in this election were age 65 and older. This prompted me to ask the question of my ‘young’ friends (for the context of this story, young means under 65) if they had voted and if they hadn’t why not?

“From my social media post, I received around 100 responses. Many young people who had not voted had a similar tone, ranging from ‘I wasn’t really aware there was an election’ to ‘I didn’t know anything about the candidates/issues’ to ‘The ballot was too overwhelming.’”

Cranston-Rhodes continues, “In thinking about the demographics of who had voted in this election and my friends’ responses, I began to form my own analysis. What do people 65+ do that young people do not do? Watch the news, read newspapers. I can’t think of a single friend my age (including myself) who watches TV. Young people stream content and get their news from social media.

“I believe someone–if that is the California Democratic Party or someone else–who believes we need higher voter turnout among young people, needs to create a strategic marketing campaign to reach young people on social media.

“To boost awareness of elections, create memes, short videos, share recommendation/endorsement lists, etc. This is where young people are spending their time, just like 65+ people (in general, obviously not everyone) spend their evenings watching the news. I see a vision of how to reach the voters in a new age. If the Russians could figure it out, why not us too?”

The next CVPPAC meeting will be Saturday, July 14, at 3:30 p.m. at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence (1584 N. Van Ness Ave.). For more information about the CVPPAC, call Pam Whalen at 559-994-9390 or visit www.cvppac.org.

A message from Veva Islas to the CVPPAC:

I am extremely honored to have won the endorsement and support of the CVPPAC. I regret that I did not make it past the primary. I know this is a disappointment in particular to those progressive supporters who had hopes of gaining more progressive seats on council. Despite our collective disappointment, I would ask progressives not to lose hope.

Our campaign won the lion share of unlikely voters. We won the greatest share of late absentee voters and those that voted on Election Day. Voters will support a truly progressive candidate. Voters responded favorably to progressive values.

Our campaign was able to raise a competitive amount of donations despite no party endorsement or union support. However, I had to work hard to get funding, while my opponents were freed because of prior campaign accounts and their party and union support. My opponents also had an advantage of having the endorsement and support of previous councilmen having served District 7. This brought the support of many previous likely voters on both sides.

So despite some challenging odds, we held our own. I’m proud of my team and our collective effort. I’m grateful to everyone who stood with me, and I’m proud to stand with you in our continuing fight for equity and justice.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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