Morning Assembly review: Parra concedes

June 8, 2010 

Fran Florez beat Pete Parra in Tuesday's Democratic primary battle of rival political families in the South Valley's 30th Assembly District.

Florez won big in Kern County and Parra only held a slight advantage in Kings County, where he needed a big margin to pull off a victory.

Overall, Florez led 56% to 44% with 86% of the precincts counted.

"He worked so hard and I'm so proud of my dad," said Pete Parra's daughter, Nicole Parra, a former Assembly member. "The turnout was just so low and we thought we'd do better in Kings."

Florez, the mother of state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, had strong support from Democratic Party leaders. Parra portrayed himself as an "independent" Democrat and had the backing of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce.

Florez will take on Republican dairy owner David Valadao of Hanford in November in what could be one of the more closely watched Assembly races in the state. Valadao handily beat his GOP opponent, Stephanie Campbell of Bakersfield.

Nicole Parra, who has long feuded with Dean Florez, suggested her father would not be endorsing Fran Florez.

"He'll decide tomorrow," she said, meaning today. But she added, "I don't see any Parra endorsing a Florez in this election."

The 30th District includes Hanford and Bakersfield. Democrats have the registration edge, but two years ago the seat was won by Republican Danny Gilmore, who is retiring. Nicole Parra helped Gilmore to victory by endorsing him in 2008 over Florez, angering Democratic leaders.

29th Assembly District

In the Fresno County-based district, Republican Linda Halderman scored a big victory over Clovis City Council Member Bob Whalen and Madera County farmer Don McKinney. Incumbent Mike Villines is termed out of the GOP-dominated district and he was facing a tougher-than-expected battle in the GOP primary for insurance commissioner in a race that remained too close to call early Wednesday morning.

In the 29th, Halderman had 47% of the vote, compared to 30% for McKinney and 24% for Whalen.

Halderman, a general surgeon and legislative staffer, was a late entry into the race but won the backing of conservative groups and posted better fundraising numbers than her opponents.

"I'm not a very typical candidate. I'm not a career politician. My ideas come from the private sector," Halderman said. "I think that's what's resonated with a lot of people."

The race was a calm one, featuring polite exchanges between the candidates. Conceding defeat, Whalen said "I think Linda's going to do a great job as an Assembly member." McKinney could not be reached to comment late Tuesday.

14th Senate District

Tom Berryhill handily beat his four GOP opponents, grabbing 68% of the vote.

Berryhill, an Assembly member from Oakdale, is seeking to replace Dave Cogdill, who is departing after one term in the GOP-dominated district that covers eastern Fresno County, Madera and Modesto.

Fresno's Tom Marsella, a financial adviser, had 11% of the vote.

16th Senate District

Dinuba real estate agent Tim Thiesen was beating Phil Wyman, 51% to 49% with 91% of precincts in.

Thiesen enjoyed strong backing from incumbent Republicans in Sacramento. Wyman served the area in the Legislature for nearly two decades beginning in 1978.

The winner will be an underdog in November in the Democratic-leaning district against Kern County Supervisor Michael Rubio, who ran unopposed. He is a former staffer of Dean Florez, who is termed out of the district, which includes Fresno and Bakersfield.

Others

As expected, Fresno City Council Member Henry T. Perea was handily winning the Democratic primary in the Fresno-based 31st Assembly District. His two challengers, Rosaline Velasco of Parlier and Romelia Niño Castillo of Orosi, had severe fundraising disadvantages. Republican Brandon Shoemaker of Selma had no primary opposition.

In the North Valley's 25th Assembly District, Modesto City Council Member Kristin Olsen held a 5-percentage-point lead over her closest competitor in a six-way GOP contest. The district includes parts of Madera County.

The reporter can be reached at eschultz@fresnobee.com or (916) 326-5541.

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