Kevin Hall has made a career of getting under the skin of politicians. Now, he wants to be one himself.
Hall, the clean-air activist, union organizer and liberal Democrat, is seeking a seat on the State Center Community College District board of trustees. His opponent in the officially nonpartisan race is Republican businessman Richard Caglia, who is seeking his second term on the board.
The Caglia-Hall clash is one of four competitive State Center races in what is looking like a key election for the district, which often is little noticed as a down- ticket race lost among higher-profile contests such as president or Fresno City Council.
Adding to the mix: For the first time, the four seats will be decided only by voters within each trustee area boundary, and not by those across all of the State Center district.
Longtime board member William J. Smith is stepping down in District 2, and four people -- Phil Maher, Paulina Miranda, Brian Murillo and Eric Payne -- are seeking to replace him.
In District 3, incumbent H. Ronald Fever is being challenged by John Leal, and in District 6, challengers Marion Montgomery-Austin and David Austin are taking on incumbent Pat Patterson.
But it is the District 7 clash between Caglia and Hall that has caught people's attention because of the high name recognition both have. Several people noted that while Caglia has sought political office as a way to give back to the community, Hall's path always has been as a watchdog.
When Hall told former Assembly Member Sarah Reyes he was going to run for elected office, Reyes said she had "a big question mark on my face. I was like, 'really?' I was surprised because I never thought Kevin would have run for office."
This is the same Hall who led opposition to the Measure Z zoo expansion, and who worked successfully to defeat a Measure C extension in 2002, and then backed a subsequent 2006 effort to extend the county's transportation sales tax when it had sufficient money for mass transit and other air-quality benefits.
As a union leader and clean-air advocate, he also has butted heads with various elected officials.
Ten years ago, Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson said he didn't know when Hall "crossed the line to being crazy." Today, Larson hasn't changed his opinion. "He's still crazy."
A decade ago, Larson was complaining about Hall's work as a clean-air advocate and how he was putting farming practices under a microscope. At one time, Hall wrote for agricultural trade magazines.
Now, Larson said he remembers Hall as a one-time agriculture proponent who flipped to the other side.
It's those changes of direction that makes Larson feel Hall shouldn't be in elected politics -- especially when he is seeking Caglia's trustee seat.
"Richard Caglia is doing a great job," Larson said. "I just don't think (Hall is) ready for that."
But Reyes said Hall would not shirk the responsibilities of the job.
"Kevin will do his homework," she said. "Kevin will hunt for what the evidence shows and he will make the judgment. That's Kevin. He will not be a board member that will sit idly by."
District 7's boundaries are roughly McKinley Avenue on the south, Highway 168 to Willow Avenue on the east, Herndon Avenue and Barstow Avenues, with a line down Highway 41 on the north, and Weber, Valentine and Marty avenues, as well as the Burlington Northern railroad to the west.
Caglia and Hall will be trying to win the support of close to 65,000 registered voters in that area. With smaller budgets, it limits what the candidates can do.
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