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.
They sound remarkably similar on the pledge.
"I really think that talk is cheap, and I'd rather have people look at what I've done rather than the signing of a document," Whalen said.
And what he's done, Whalen said, was oppose Clovis' Measure A, which would have added a penny to the city's sales tax for 10 years before dropping to three-quarters of a cent. Whalen was the lone council member to oppose the city measure.
Patterson called the pledge a "minor, entry-level expectation" and said it wasn't worth signing because it didn't go far enough. He said not only does he oppose new taxes, he wants to reduce existing rates.
"Anyone who knows me knows I want to reduce taxation, so to ask me to sign a pledge saying I won't raise taxes is akin to asking me to sign a pledge saying I won't beat my dog," Patterson said.
With agreement like this, is it any wonder that the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, the venerable Republican business group, has split on the race?
The organization has endorsed Patterson, but its politically active chairman, Michael Der Manouel Jr., gave his backing to Whalen.
-- John Ellis
Poochigian endorses Patterson for AD23
Fresno County Supervisor Debbie Poochigian didn't plan to get involved in the 23rd Assembly District race, but her constituents kept asking her who to support.
It seemed a logical question because Republicans Jim Patterson and Bob Whalen are facing each other.
So Poochigian decided not only to endorse Patterson, but to send a letter to her constituents urging them to support the former Fresno mayor.
"I know both of them and I've worked with both of them, and I just feel like (Patterson's) record as a mayor shows that he was tough on crime and that he's a guardian of our tax dollars," Poochigian said. "I think he'd be a stronger voice in Sacramento."
Poochigian doesn't know how much the letter will cost. It will most likely land in mailboxes today.
-- John Ellis