South Valley elections: Kings County DA falls; all-GOP final in Tulare-based Assembly district

The Fresno BeeJune 3, 2014 

With the exception of the race for Kings County district attorney, incumbents in Tulare and Kings counties kept their seats based on final vote counts from Tuesday's election.

In another race with Tulare County interest, Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza and veterans advocate Devon Mathis were headed to an all-Republican November general election, vying to replace Assembly Member Connie Conway in District 26.

The two top vote-getters -- regardless of party affiliation -- will square off in November in the state's top-two format. Mendoza had tallied 38.6% of the vote and Mathis 21.1%.

Assembly District 26 covers most of Tulare, all of Inyo and part of Kern counties, and Republicans outnumber Democrats. Conway, the Tulare Republican who first won elected office in 2000 when she joined the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, is termed out but has said she's planning a run for a state Senate seat in 2018.

Trailing in District 26 were Democrats Carlton Jones (with 17.7%), Ruben Macareno and Derek Thomas, and Republicans Tess Andres and Esther Barajas. None of the bottom four cracked 10%.

"I'm not going to take my foot off the gas," Mendoza said. "I'm going to work hard to meet as many people as I can and tell the my story."

The South Valley's other Assembly race was in District 32, which takes in Kings and part of Kern counties. Democrat Rudy Salas led with 43.0% of the vote and was headed to November against Republican Pedro Rios, who polled 34.9%. Republican Romeo Agbalog was out with 22.1%.

A closer look at other key races:

Kings County DA

District Attorney Greg Strickland was losing badly to challenger Keith Fagundes, a former Kings County prosecutor with 11 years experience in criminal cases. A vote count just after midnight showed Fagundes with 68.8% to Strickland's 32.2%.

Fagundes, 43, said his strong showing is a reaction to turmoil in the DA's Office: "This is a huge message (that) we need a serious change. I intend to bring it."

Prosecutors will be required to go on ride-alongs with officers so prosecutors see how criminal cases start, he said. "We need to work hand in hand with the police chiefs and law enforcement."

Tulare County sheriff, DA

Acting Sheriff Mike Boudreaux was on his way to dropping "Acting" from his title with 72.3% of the vote in the final Tulare County election summary. Dave Whaley, a retired Tulare County undersheriff, had 27.1%.

Intenal polling showed strength coming into the election, but "it's exciting to see the outcome," Boudreaux said.

He said the department would keep fighting ag crimes, but also Internet predators and identity theft.

Only two candidates sought to succeed Sheriff Bill Wittman, who last year relinquished office due to health issues.

And in the race for Tulare County DA, appointed incumbent Tim Ward received 55.7% of the vote compared with 44.0% for Ralph Kaelble, a former Tulare County supervising district attorney who said he was forced out after Ward took over.

Ward grabbed endorsements from Conway and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, as well as other office holders, while Kaelble was endorsed by rank-and-file law enforcement groups such as the Visalia Police Officers Association.The Tulare DA's race is what Hollis Fernandez, 32, of Visalia, said she came out to vote in. She said she belongs to a service club with the wife of Kaelble.

Tulare, Kings supervisors

In the race for Tulare County Board of Supervisors District 5, covering southeast Tulare County including Porterville, incumbent Mike Ennis was ahead of three challengers, according to totals after all precincts were counted. But votes for Ennis were 50.1% of the total cast, putting him on the edge of having to go to a November runoff. Trailing were Porterville City Council members Virginia Gurrola (23.6%) and Greg Shelton (15.0%) and Felipe Martinez (11.1%).

In the race for Kings County Board of Supervisors District 3, one-term incumbent Doug Verboon of Hanford was comfortably ahead of challenger Holly Blair of Lemoore.

In District 4, farmer Craig Pedersen was ahead in a field of five. The seat has no incumbent because Supervisor Tony Barba did not seek re-election.

Trailing were Justin Bond, a former Army sergeant, followed by Sue Sorensen, Dolores Gallegos and Alan Danielson.

Both races were dominated by the California High-Speed Rail controversy and water supply worries. Some candidates had high name recognition because they'd held elected office before.

Other races

In the race for Kings County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters, Kristine Lee, the chief auditor appraiser in the Tulare County Assessor's Office, was ahead in a field of four, followed by A. Renee Faber, Dan Chin and Ed Lopez.

Kings County Superintendent of Schools Tim Bowers was easily holding back challenger Tony Araujo, an educator.

In the Porterville City Council race, nine candidates, including one incumbent, sought two seats. Newcomer Milt Stowe, a retired recreation director, led the way with 37.0% and incumbent Pete McCracken secured another term with 20.0%. Trailing were Matthew Green, John "Juan" Duran, Larry Harper, Shawn Cable, Russell Fletcher, Shawn Schwartzenberger and Christopher Morton.

A series of ballot measures in Porterville to amend the City Charter were largely passing.

In Dinuba, a recall election against Council Member Janet Hinesly was fizzling. Nathaniel "Nate" Mendoza, a minister, was the only candidate on the ballot to replace Hinesly if the recall succeeds.

And Pixley voters appeared poised to pass a school bond measure.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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