In South Valley election races, three incumbents faced challengers in their re-election bids for county supervisor seats. A Tulare County supervisor lost to a challenger, but two Kings County supervisors cruised to re-election.
In Tulare County District 3, Supervisor Phil Cox lost to Amy Shuklian, a Visalia City councilwoman who unseated the three-term incumbent in a two-person race.
District 3 is centered on Visalia, the county seat.
With all districts reporting Tuesday night, Shuklian had 54.8 percent of the vote to 44.7 percent for Cox.
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Whoever won Tuesday night would take office in January, because there will be no runoff election in November.
Shuklian said she has campaigned almost nonstop since July 2015 and raised a lot of money.
“I just needed to out-campaign him, and I think that’s what I did,” she said. “I got my message out and I kept my campaign clean.”
Both candidates ran well-funded campaigns and sent out multiple mailers. Cox raised about $50,000, and Shuklian raised more than $105,000.
The whole transparency issue was a big one.
Amy Shuklian, Tulare County District 3 apparent winner
Cox said when he was first elected 12 years ago he ran on a message of change and defeated the incumbent, and Shuklian used a similar strategy to win.
“She ran a good campaign; she had the funds to do it,” he said. “The people wanted a change, and they’ll get a change. Only time will tell if that’s a good decision or a bad decision.”
Cox said he is not sure what he will do next, but he will work hard to represent the district until the term expires in six months.
He campaigned on a message of “Let’s keep what’s working,” citing his success in expanding the Step Up program that diverts at-risk youth from gangs, and in the county’s fiscal strength despite the Great Recession.
But Shuklian knocked Cox as “complacent” in his approach to issues that matter most to Visalia, such as allowing too many trees in Mooney Grove Park to die in the drought, and offered herself as a fiscal conservative with more leadership skills.
“The whole transparency issue was a big one,” Shuklian said during a victory celebration Tuesday night. “We are at a time when politicians aren’t real trusted, and I want to work for people to be able to trust again.”
It’s a nonpartisan race, but the Tulare County Republican Central Committee issued a letter supporting Cox and attacking Shuklian as a former Democrat posing as someone with conservative values.
Smith, Crocker in runoff for Tulare District 1 seat
In District 1, Dennis Smith and Kuyler Crocker emerged from a field of eight to advance to the November runoff.
With all 26 precincts reporting, Smith, an Exeter business owner, had 21.9 percent and Crocker, an energy adviser from Strathmore, had 19.1 percent.
Smith said a lot of people know him because “I’ve been here all my life.” He started his business with a partner at age 27 and has been married for 43 years.
His message about water resonated with voters, he said.
I believe the water situation is by far and away the biggest issue we’re going to deal with.
Dennis Smith, Tulare County District 1 candidate who appears headed to a November runoff
“I believe the water situation is by far and away the biggest issue we’re going to deal with,” he said. “The state is trying to change property rights. … I’m totally in favor of local control.”
Crocker said he received a lot of support from the agricultural community because he grew up in a farming family that still farms. He started his campaign in January 2015.
“I’ve been walking precincts and attending events,” he said. “Farmers resonated with having a farmer in the race.”
District 1 includes Exeter, Farmersville, Three Rivers, Lindsay and east Visalia. There is no incumbent because Supervisor Allen Ishida, 68, did not seek re-election.
Candidates also included newspaper publisher and Tulare County Planning Commissioner John Elliott of Three Rivers, business adviser Vincent Salinas of Visalia, insurance agent and former Exeter City Councilman Ted Macaulay of Exeter, logistics manager Brian Poochigian of Visalia, county employee Angel Galvez and Lindsay City Councilwoman Rosaena Sanchez.
No single issue dominated, but several candidates – especially Smith – cited water shortages for agriculture in the drought as a major issue. Other issues cited by candidates included public safety, gangs and groundwater regulation.
In District 2, which includes Tulare, incumbent Pete Vander Poel ran unopposed.
Kings County incumbents run strong
In Kings County, final tallies posted just before 6 a.m. Wednesday showed that each incumbent supervisor had easily fended off a single challenger.
Supervisor Richard Valle, 45, of Corcoran was at 64.4 percent, well ahead of challenger Debra Kwast, 62, of Corcoran. Valle is headed to a third term for a sprawling District 2 that includes Corcoran, Avenal, Kettleman City and Home Garden.
District 5 Supervisor Richard Fagundes, 74, had 61.6 percent of the vote to easily outdistance challenger Greg Strickland, 64, a former Kings County district attorney and retired military officer. The district includes east Hanford and environs.
Campaign issues in Kings County included high-speed rail, a hot topic in which the Board of Supervisors has sued to stop to the project; water shortages in the drought; and leadership styles.
The Kings County ballot also included Measure K, a proposed quarter-cent sales tax for public safety. It required two-thirds voter approval to pass and appeared to come up just short at 66.4 percent after the final election-night tally was done. It’ll need about a 50-vote swing in the count of mail-in and provisional ballots in the coming days to change the outcome, but public safety officials in Kings County say they expect no change in results.
“To get as close as we did, that makes it tough,” Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever said.