It remains to be seen whether Fresno Democrat Luis Chavez can take out incumbent state Sen. Andy Vidak. Or even seriously challenge the Hanford Republican.
The Democrats say they’re ready to fight for the seat, which Vidak won just last year in a special election to replace Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio, who unexpectedly resigned.
True to their word, the state Democratic Party late Friday gave Chavez $200,000.
It was, Democrat operatives say, a way to level the playing field.
“We’re very grateful for that support,” Chavez said. “The bottom line is we need the resources to get our message out — and this is a big sail in our wind.”
At the end of last year, according to campaign finance reports, Vidak had a little more than $170,000 in his account. Late contribution reports since the end of last year show Vidak pushing above the $200,000 mark.
If Chavez’s late contributions are tallied along with the state Democratic Party money, his total is around $230,000.
So — at least for now and only talking money — the playing field has indeed been leveled.
Democrats were stunned last year when Vidak won the special election. They had grown used to holding the seat — from Jim Costa to Dean Florez to Rubio.
Vidak won in the 16th District, but redistricting will kick in this year, and so he will stand for reelection in the 14th District. The two districts largely cover the same territory.
Democrats feel it should be their seat because they hold a voter-registration advantage of more than 16 percentage points. The district is also majority Hispanic.
But Republicans are confident this is one takeaway from Democrats they can hold.
It is likely that the $200,000 from Democrats will be just the beginning for Chavez, and Republicans will almost certainly respond in kind, making this one of the more competitive races this year.