The runoff election Tuesday for District 4 Kings County supervisor pits cotton farmer Craig Pedersen against military veteran Justin Bond, who lost a leg in the Iraq War.
The district includes southwest Hanford, Armona and rural precincts.
In the June primary involving a field of five candidates, Pedersen got 38% of the vote and Bond got 28%.
Incumbent Supervisor Tony Barba, who served five terms, did not seek re-election.
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Pedersen, 53, lives on a farm west of Hanford.
He said the Pedersen farming family donated land for West Hills College Lemoore, saw one of its farms split in two when the Highway 198 freeway was built, and recently sold 500 acres following the death of his grandmother.
But “we’re still farming,” he said. He also owns commercial real estate.
Pedersen said voters tell him they want someone with experience.
He cited his experience preparing budgets to apply for bank loans, and his service on boards such as the Kings County Water Commission, as preparation for the job.
“The county is a business and it’s about managing taxpayer dollars wisely,” he said.
The biggest issue facing Kings County is water for agriculture, “which supplies the jobs and industry,” he said.
“We need to develop a sustainable groundwater supply,” but he said he worries the state will try to “usurp” the county in the role. “We can do it better than anyone else can.”
He support Prop. 1, which authorizes $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds for water projects, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection.
He said he opposes high-speed rail but “the court system won’t look at it and won’t stop it. The only alternative is to make sure they pay landowners the true value.”
Bond, 37, grew up in Hanford under difficult circumstances. His mother became paralyzed when he was young and his father was largely absent.
“I moved out at 14,” lived with an uncle and skipped high school, he said. “I kind of raised myself.”
He joined the Army at 18, a decision that changed his life, he said: “The Army made me what I am today.”
He mustered out, but after 9/11 signed up with a National Guard unit in Fresno that was sent to Iraq. On April 9, 2004, he lost his left leg in the Battle of Fallujah and retired as a sergeant.
He came home to Hanford and worked as director of Kings Crusaders Pathfinders, a youth organization, and founded Our Heroes’ Dreams, which helps veterans.
Because Lemoore Naval Air Station is an economic pillar of Kings County and is expanding, “we need someone who speaks that language,” he said.
He vowed “to work full time” if elected, and questioned if Pedersen could both operate a farm and work full time as a supervisor.
Bond said that if elected, he would keep a close eye on county expenses — he criticizes supervisors for voting to raise their pay and the county for buying televisions that cost $4,000 each when “they could have gotten it cheaper.”
He favors reopening a closed boot camp for juvenile offenders and said Armona, a poorer community, has been “neglected.”
The drought is hurting farmers, Bond said.
“We’re in trouble,” he said. “We need to get water storage so we don’t get in this situation again. We’ve seen water go to the ocean.”
High-speed rail is too expensive to build or operate, he said.
Pedersen has raised more money than Bond, according to campaign finance statements.
From Jan. 1 to Oct. 14, Pedersen raised about $26,600 and loaned himself an additional $9,600. Larger contributions include $5,000 from Allbright Cotton in Fresno, $5,749 from Walker Farms in Hanford, and several $100 to $500 contributions, many from farmers.
He has sent out mailers.
Bond has raised $9,851, including $6,000 from the California United Homecare Workers Union Political Action Committee.
He has spent money on yard signs, filing fees and campaign paraphernalia.