Democrat Salas picks up Republican support in Kings Co., a GOP stronghold

Posted by John Ellis on March 21, 2014 

Assembly Member Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield

Two years ago, Bakersfield Democrat Rudy Salas was elected to the state Assembly, but don’t ask him how he did among Kings County voters.

His Republican opponent, Delano’s Pedro Rios, won close to 59% of the Kings vote, with Salas way back at 41%.

And that’s kind of the way it’s been for Democrats in Kings, even back to 2000, when then-Rep. Cal Dooley was whipped on his local turf by Republican Rich Rodriguez.

Dooley won reelection, however, because the district also was in Kern and Fresno counties, but a short time later, he showed his displeasure to Kings by moving his congressional district office from Hanford to Fresno.

By 2010, it was Hanford Republican Andy Vidak completely dominating Dooley’s congressional successor, Jim Costa, winning 70% of Kings the vote to Costa’s 30%. As with Dooley, Costa may have lost Kings, but he also won the reelection war — though narrowly. In short, Kings County isn’t exactly Democratic territory.

Which brings things to 2014, and the recent announcement by Salas that he’s won endorsements from three of the five Kings County supervisors. Even more surprising, two of them — Doug Verboon and Tony Barba — are Republicans.

“He doesn’t seem to be your typical Kern County politician on the Democratic side,” Verboon said.

Salas ventured into Kings after he was elected. At the time, Verboon didn’t know him at all. He’d endorsed Rios, who interestingly is seeking a rematch this year against Salas.

Since then, Verboon said Salas has picked up the phone when he’s called, and has come to many Kings County events. Even more important, Verboon said Salas “believes in agriculture” and is skeptical of high-speed rail.

“I didn’t have any reason not to like Rudy,” Verboon said. “My conscious wouldn’t let me not like him. I had to go with my gut instinct.”

It also may have helped that Salas asked for the endorsement before Rios and another Republican, Delano Union School District trustee Romeo Agbalog, entered the race. Both, Verboon noted, entered late.

Besides Verboon and Barba, Democrat Richard Fagundes, a third supervisor, also endorsed Salas.

In a statement on the endorsements, Salas said he looks “forward to continuing to work with members of both parties to make sure the Valley has a strong voice in the state Capitol.”

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