Political notebook: John Hernandez to seek rematch with David Valadao

The Fresno BeeOctober 11, 2013 

John Hernandez

SPECIAL TO THE FRESNO BEE — Special to the Fresno Bee

Last year, Fresno Democrat John Hernandez ran a low-budget, debt-ridden campaign against Hanford Republican David Valadao for the 21st Congressional District.

Valadao spanked Hernandez in the November election, winning by more than 15 percentage points — even though the district, on paper, appears to be drawn for a Hispanic Democrat.

Undaunted, Hernandez says he is going to once again challenge Valadao. He plans to officially kick off his campaign today with events in Bakersfield and Sanger.

"We've been working all summer," Hernandez said. "I'm the candidate for this district."

This time, though, it might not be so simple for Hernandez.

The main reason is Amanda Renteria, who looks like she will have the backing of most, if not all, of the Democratic Party establishment.

Hernandez already has torpedoed the Democratic Party's plans once. Last year, it backed Fresno City Council Member Blong Xiong in the 21st District race, but in the June open primary, Valadao and Hernandez finished one-two and moved on to the general election, leaving Xiong in the dust.

But Xiong got a late start and his campaign never caught fire.

This time, Renteria is getting an early start and has some intangibles that Xiong didn't — she is Hispanic and female.

The 38-year-old graduate of Woodlake High School, Stanford and Harvard Business School was the first Latina chief of staff to a U.S. senator, and now has moved back to the central San Joaquin Valley to run.

This week, she picked up the endorsement of EMILY's List, a group that supports female Democratic candidates.

Hernandez is undaunted.

"The key is we have the name recognition up and down the district," he said. "Amanda has none of that. She's going to have to start from scratch. Nobody knows her at all."

Some of that echoes what Valadao has said about Renteria.

In the district, 73% of the 712,866 residents are counted as Hispanic or Latino, according to Census Bureau records.

Democrats also enjoy a 47%-32% voter registration advantage over Republicans in the district, which includes all of Kings and parts of Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties on the Valley's west side.

Still, no Hispanic ever has been able to turn that kind of advantage into a victory.

Next year, the three hopefuls — Valadao, Hernandez and Renteria, as well as any others who jump in the race — will square off in the open primary. The top two vote-getters move on to the November general election, regardless of party.

Assuming Valadao moves on as the likely lone Republican, the question is who will be his opponent — Renteria, the Democratic Party's favored choice, or Hernandez, once again upsetting his party's apple cart.

— John Ellis

Brown signs Perea bill on athlete work comp

Fresno Assembly Member Henry T. Perea's bill aimed at curtailing professional athletes' access to worker's compensation became law this week.

Supporters of Assembly Bill 1309 argued that professional athletes have exploited California's overly generous worker's compensation system, seeking disability benefits even when they played for out-of-state teams and rarely took the field in California.

Under the new law, former athletes will need to prove they played for California-based teams for either two years or 20% of their career in order to claim worker's compensation.

The bill was supported by a variety of pro teams and leagues, and opposed by player unions and other major labor organizations. In an unsuccessful campaign to defeat the bill, current and past professional football players — including former Edison High and NFL running back Ickey Woods — gathered at the state Capitol this year.

— Jeremy B. White, The Sacramento Bee

Another opening on appellate court bench

Rebecca Wiseman, a 5th District Court of Appeal justice since 1995, is retiring Oct. 31, a move that will open up a seat on the 10-member court that will be filled by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Wiseman's retirement is the second from the 5th District appellate court in as many years. In May 2012, Betty Dawson retired after almost nine years as a justice. Brown replaced her with Rosendo Peña.

Wiseman's replacement won't come immediately, said Brad Hill, the 5th District Court's presiding justice.

Hopefuls will submit their names to the Brown administration, which selects applications to send to the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation for its opinion.

The favored nominee must then be confirmed by the three-member Commission on Judicial Appointments. That panel includes state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and the presiding justice of the Court of Appeal district where the vacancy is being filled. In this case, that is Hill.

— John Ellis


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