All five Assembly incumbents in the central San Joaquin Valley appear to have solid footing heading into the November general election.
All five represent districts that lean in their favor.
That includes the 26th District, where two Visalia men are battling: first-term Assemblyman Devon Mathis, a Republican, against Democrat Ruben Macareno.
Click here to read more about all the candidates in the Voter Guide.
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Mathis enjoys a strong advantage going into the general election, said former 26th District Assemblywoman Connie Conway, R-Tulare, who termed out two years ago.
“It’s a Republican district and I’m pretty sure the outcome will be the same as last time,” Conway said.
The district – encompassing most of Tulare County, all of Inyo and a piece of Kern – is 45 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 18 percent no party preference.
Because of the numbers, the main contest to win the seat likely occurred in the June primary when Rudy Mendoza, R-Woodlake – who lost to Mathis two years ago in the general election – ran again but came in third, despite lots of spending in his favor.
Mathis, 43, a military veteran, said his bipartisan approach in the heavily Democratic Legislature has helped him accomplish more than his critics expected.
“I have the best freshman Republican record in decades,” he said. “I have authored or jointly authored nearly 200 pieces of legislation.”
He is particularly proud of state money for East Porterville, which became the face of the California drought when wells went dry but will be hooked up to city of Porterville municipal water. Mathis said his next goalis to get money in the next state budget for property owners to borrow money or receive grants for new wells to replace those that went dry in the drought.
I have the best freshman Republican record in decades.
Devon Mathis, Assemblyman 26th District
The 26th District candidates sound off on themes that are familiar in the Valley, including farmworkers and health care.
Mathis said one of his most important votes was for a bill that most Republicans opposed, allowing the state to receive more than $1 billion in federal funds for health care.
“That brought over 7 million to the Assembly district to help my hospitals,” he said.
But Mathis was reliably Republican by voting against a bill requiring overtime pay for farmworkers.
Although Mathis has a party advantage, he still is campaigning by knocking on doors, and took a swipe at Macareno.
“He’s an L.A. Democrat who wants to go work with his buddies (in Sacramento),” Mathis said. Macareno said he grew up in Farmersville and has lived in Visalia for several years.
Mathis is raising more money than Macareno. From Aug. 1 through Sept. 24, he raised about $109,000. By contrast, Macareno reported raising about $1,000.
Macareno is a political consultant and Democratic activist who has served on the Tulare County Democratic Central Committee.
He said he is getting his message out by “meeting and greeting” people in the district, including Inyo County.
“We need better quality health care,” he said. “People go to Los Angeles, Sacramento and Santa Barbara. In this area, (doctors) are booked and patients are seen by physician’s assistants. I want to bring a medical school to our area.”
Economic development is needed in rural areas, he said.
“We are one of the most economically depressed areas of the state,” he said. “We need more jobs in the area. The type of jobs we have do not pay. Families need two incomes.”
Tulare County needs a four-year college because Fresno State and Bakersfield are too far from some students, he said.
“We need to think outside the box,” he said.
The California State University system has opened campuses in Monterey and Camarillo by reusing public property, and the same is possible at Porterville Development Center, which is downsizing its population, he said.
Unlike Mathis, Macareno supports the high-speed rail project.
We need more jobs in the area. The type of jobs we have do not pay.
Ruben Macareno, candidate for 26th Assembly District
“I understand people are upset at the increase in cost (of the project) but we can’t stop looking ahead for the state,” he said.
Approving overtime pay for farmworkers was the right thing to do, he said: “They work in cold and hot conditions. They deserve overtime. It’s a black-and-white issue.”
Mathis cares more about his political career than anything else, Macareno said.
“This is just a steppingstone for him, so when there’s an opportunity to run for Congress he can do that,” Macareno said.
Assembly District 26 candidates
Family: Married, seven children
Endorsements: National Federation of Independent Businesses, the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others
Occupation: Political consultant/businessman
Family: Married, two grown children
Endorsements: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Visalia Unified Trustee Juan Guerrero, Porterville City Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola, Farmersville City Councilman Greg Gomez and others
On the web: MacarenoforAssembly on Facebook
Other Assembly races
A quick look at the Valley’s other Assembly races. For more about the candidates, check out The Bee’s Voter Guide, fblinks.com/vguide
▪ Incumbent Frank Bigelow, 62, a Republican rancher and businessman from O’Neals, is seeking a third term. He is being challenged by Democrat Robert Carabas, 70, retired, of Sonora.
▪ The district encompasses Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Madera, Mariposa and Mono counties, and parts of El Dorado and Placer counties. Registration is 41 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic.
▪ Incumbent Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, a former Fresno mayor, is seeking re-election to a third term and is being opposed by Republican Gwen Morris of Fresno, retired executive director of a nonprofit organization.
▪ The district includes Clovis, part of Fresno, eastern Fresno County and part of Tulare County. Registration is 43 percent Republican, 34 percent Democratic.
▪ Joaquin Arambula, 39, D-Kingsburg, won a special election in April after former Assemblyman Henry T. Perea resigned. Arambula is being challenged by Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier, 41, R-Fresno. Arambula won the seat in the June special election with 53.8 percent of the vote, compared with 40.3 percent for Olivier and 5.9 percent for Democrat Ted Miller. Voters in June also determined the two candidates moving forward to the November election, and the results were similar: Arambula 57.7 percent, Olivier 35.8 percent and Miller 6.5 percent.
▪ The district includes western Fresno County including much of the city of Fresno, with party registration 48 percent Democratic, 29 percent Republican.
▪ Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, faces a challenge by Manuel Ramirez, R-Bakersfield. Ramirez ran as a write-in candidate in the primary election.
▪ The district includes all of Kings County and part of Kern. Party registration is 51 percent Democratic and 28 percent Republican.