Jim Patterson, Bob Whalen to run for Assembly

The Fresno BeeMarch 12, 2012 

Former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and two other Republicans on Monday said they would seek the 23rd Assembly District seat, which was thrown open last week when first-term Republican Linda Halderman unexpectedly said she wouldn't seek reelection.

"It is a go," Patterson said in an interview.

Also on Monday, Clovis City Council Member Bob Whalen and Fresno attorney David DeFrank said they, too, would run.

But unlike Patterson, who on Friday said "not this time" before reconsidering over the weekend, Whalen made it clear from the start he was interested.

On Friday, Whalen said he was "82% of the way" to running. On Saturday, he was "92% of the way."

And Monday? "I'm 200% in now," he said.

"We pulled petitions this morning, and they're being circulated right now," Whalen said. "It's been a real whirlwind, I'll tell you that."

In 2010, Whalen finished last in a three-person Assembly Republican primary that Halderman won. At that time, it was known as the 29th Assembly District. This time, Whalen said the difference-maker will be Julie Griffiths, his campaign consultant and Halderman's close friend.

As for DeFrank, the Fresno native is not well-known in local Republican circles, but has retained prominent Sacramento consultant Matt Rexroad.

DeFrank, 26, practices agricultural law and positioned himself as the political outsider who would bring a new perspective to Sacramento.

"There needs to be some new blood in the mix," DeFrank said. "Somebody who hasn't spent their whole life in government."

This would be the first run for elective office for DeFrank, who has been thinking about politics for awhile and decided to commit to the 23rd District after discussing it with his wife over the weekend.

Others considering a run -- but still officially uncommitted -- include Tal Eslick, a 27-year-old Clovis resident who is chief of staff for Assembly Member David Valadao of Hanford, and Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier, 36.

"I'm talking with friends and family about the opportunity right now," said Eslick, who pulled nomination papers Monday afternoon. "The response to a run has been excellent, to say the least."

Olivier said he was "still talking it over with my family."

A Democrat is also in the race -- Fresno resident Richard Rojas, who lists "labor representative" as his profession. He couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Patterson, 64, said he decided to run after meeting with Pastor Jim Franklin and retired Judge Annette LaRue, who are his business partners in KGED (AM 1680), a radio station they purchased last year.

"They are not just partners," Patterson said. "They are friends and supporters. They're in my corner and they have encouraged me. They're excited about it and they want to help."

Patterson had earlier toyed with the idea of a run in the newly created 16th Congressional District, but decided against it.

After dismissing the idea of an Assembly run on Friday, Patterson reconsidered and sent out a Sunday email to supporters: "I can win this seat, and I am asking you to help me do it," the email stated.

The district -- once known as the 29th Assembly District -- will be reconfigured and renamed the 23rd District as of next year and cover Clovis, a large chunk of north Fresno, eastern Fresno County and mountainous parts of Tulare County.

One thing won't change: It will be strongly Republican in voter registration.

Please visit The Bee's Political Notebook to keep up with the latest news in Valley politics.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, jellis@fresnobee.com or on Twitter @johnellis24

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