Incumbent Tulare County Supervisor Mike Ennis is fighting to survive a runoff election in November against Porterville City Council Member Virginia Gurrola, who has taken verbal swipes at him.
Ennis, 69, is a former car dealership manager from Porterville who is seeking a third term as supervisor for District 5 in southeastern Tulare County, including Porterville, Terra Bella and Springville.
In the June primary, Ennis fell a few votes shy of getting a majority of the vote and avoiding a runoff. He got 49.7% to Gurrola’s 23%, with two other candidates sharing the rest.
Gurrola said the election results shows a majority of voters want a new supervisor, but Ennis said he’s confident about keeping his supporters, many from rural precincts, and getting enough additional votes to put him over the top.
Gurrola, 63, of Porterville, was born and raised in Lindsay and is recently retired from Porterville College. She was elected to the Porterville City Council in 2012, and served on the council several years ago.
“I have a passion to serve individuals and the community so we can all live a better life,” she said.
In both the primary election and in the run-up to the general election, she has charged that Ennis refuses to make connections with other community leaders to the detriment of residents, and has purposely avoided election debates.
“We have a problem,” she said. “We have an absentee supervisor who does not engage and does not collaborate. I’m not making that up. I hear that in the community.”
But Ennis said his many accomplishments as an elected official tell a different story.
“I think I’m pretty engaged,” he said. “What do you expect from somebody who is running against you? I never step in someone’s face to get up the mountain.”
He said he was involved in getting residents of East Porterville signed up for drinking water after hundreds of wells went dry, and played a role in getting the Army Corps of Engineers to reverse its decision to keep Lake Success only half-filled.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” he said.
He said county government helped find water for the drought-stricken Terra Bella area, found a site in Porterville for a new mental health facility, received state funding to build a new jail in Porterville and built roads as “safe routes to schools” in the district.
Gurrola said she brings “a new vision” and “out-of-the-box thinking” to drought relief and other issues facing the county.
“Water bottles and water tanks are not a permanent solution” for East Porterville, she said. “It requires the city and the county to work together. The city is the one that has the water. The city needs to be involved in these decisions, and that is not taking place.”
Ennis said it’s easy to talk about drought relief, but the funding for solutions is coming from federal and state programs.
“There’s a lot of restrictions,’ he said. “You don’t just throw money at it. There’s strings attached.”
Drought is also the most important issue facing local farmers, he said.
“What has me concerned is the groundwater regulations that they passed,” he said, referring to laws about groundwater sustainability. “It’s another layer of government trying to take over the San Joaquin Valley.”
As of Sept. 30, Ennis out-raised Gurrola in campaign contributions, but Gurrola showed strength in the third quarter.
Ennis raised $24,741 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, including $3,350 in the third quarter. Major contributions included $2,000 from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee and $5,000 from Setton Pistachio in Terra Bella.
Gurrola raised about $17,600, including $6,944 in the third quarter. She received $1,000 from Jovita Castaneda of Porterville, $1,500 from the Service Employees International Union and several smaller contributions of $100 or less.