The conventional wisdom is that Hanford Republican David Valadao is a strong favorite to win the newly created 21st Congressional District seat, and his Democratic opponent, John Hernandez, is the long shot.
Part of the reasoning is the total lack of money coming into the district from national groups supporting Republicans or Democrats.
Two years ago at this time, when Democrat Jim Costa represented much of the district -- which covers the Valley's west side from western Fresno County south to Kern County, and including all of Kings County -- hundreds of thousands of dollars from these groups were pouring in for mailers and television ads.
In the end, Costa held off a spirited challenge from Hanford cherry farmer Andy Vidak.
This time around, nada.
A group known as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies -- which two years ago spent close to $340,000 for television commercials attacking Costa -- has produced a television ad attacking Hernandez.
Crossroads GPS, as it is also known, was launched two years ago with help from former President George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.
On Friday, Crossroads GPS announced the new ad -- backed by a $619,000 total buy.
That's real money.
The new ad -- titled "Vision" -- starts today.
So are Republicans getting nervous about Valadao's chances? Can any other conclusion be drawn?
This race has been on no radar screens. But out of nowhere last week the National Journal -- a nonpartisan magazine that covers national politics and policy -- published an article that suggested "private polling is moving the wrong way" for Valadao.
Registration favors Democrats by almost 15 percentage points, and Hernandez is predicting he's going to get out the vote.
And now this.
-- John Ellis
Finding differences in Whalen-Patterson
Thanks to the state's new primary election system -- which pits the top two finishers in the primary, regardless of political party -- voters in the 23rd Assembly District might have some trouble picking a candidate to support.
It's conservative Republican Jim Patterson vs. conservative Republican Bob Whalen.
What's a 23rd District voter to do?
One option might be looking at their stance on Proposition 32, which would ban unions from deducting money from workers' paychecks to spend on political campaigns.
Being conservatives, the logical assumption would be they'd support the business-backed initiative. But both are neutral.
"I have a lot of friends on both sides of Prop. 32," said Whalen, a Clovis Council member. "I have no position yet. I'm still studying it."
Patterson, a former Fresno mayor, said he has "people that I care about on both sides" of the initiative.
"I see merit on what it attempts to do, but it also has some flaws to it," he said. "I'll probably, in the quietness of where I vote, make a decision on it."
Not that it matters, both say, but Whalen is supported by the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, the Fresno City Firefighters, the Clovis Police Officers Association and the Fresno Police Officers Association, and Patterson by the Fresno Deputy Sheriffs Association.
OK, then, how about the tax pledges that are popular among Republicans? Most Republican legislators in Sacramento have signed a no-tax pledge issued by the national group Americans for Tax Reform, which is led by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.
Both Patterson and Whalen, however, have declined to sign.