Joaquin Arambula has the political pedigree. Now, he may have the calling.
He’s the son of former Assembly Member and Fresno County Supervisor Juan Arambula, but he stayed out of politics, instead focusing on his medical career. He’s an emergency room doctor at Adventist Medical Center in Selma.
And now he’s considering a 2016 campaign in the 31st Assembly District, where Fresno Democrat Henry T. Perea will be termed out next year.
Arambula, 37, a Democrat from Kingsburg, said it was a desire to see a medical school in Fresno, with the goal of adding doctors and medical professionals in the central San Joaquin Valley, that led him to consider politics — though he said he’s interested in a “gazillion other issues” as well.
“I’m a Valley boy,” Arambula said. “This is home for me, but it’s hard to recruit doctors to the Valley. We need a school here so they can get their roots dug in. … My logic is I need to call in reinforcements, and not one at a time, but 100 at a time.”
Arambula stressed that nothing is definite, but the path to office is certainly clear. It’s the same seat his father held from 2004 to 2010. The most recent voter-registration statistics show Democrats at 48.8% of voters and Republicans 28.3%. Around 18.6% are members of no political party. The district covers a huge part of southern Fresno County as well as its western half.
Fresno Democrat Sarah Reyes, who like Juan Arambula is also a former Assembly member from the 31st District, has already endorsed Joaquin Arambula.
“I had a really good experience working with Joaquin around some health issues and he just has a really good grasp of the issues,” Reyes said. “He’s smart. He’s well-spoken. He really has a passion for working with people.”
She also said Arambula is fully aware of what it takes to run a political campaign — and win.
The 31st District race appears wide open. Sanger Democrat Amanda Renteria — who lost the 21st Congressional District race last year to Hanford Republican David Valadao — was poised to seek the seat, but now she’s all but certain to work as national political director in Hillary Clinton’s likely presidential campaign. Another possible candidate is Fresno Unified school board trustee Luis Chavez.
Arambula’s focus on the state Assembly also means he won’t challenge Valadao next year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently met with Arambula about a 21st Congressional District run, but the strain of living in the Valley and working in Washington, D.C., ended that possibility. Arambula has two young daughters and his wife is pregnant.
“I have a wife and I intend to stay married,” Arambula said. “She came as close as possible to putting her foot down and saying she doesn’t want to raise our kids alone.”
But the Arambulas consider Sacramento to be doable.
Arambula said he “grew up with a father married to constituents. He was always at events and not always home.” Arambula said he learned from that experience: “I want to be that type of public servant, but I recognize what role that has on our family. ... Advocacy is in my blood.”
Another thing Arambula and his father have in common is the Valleycrat independent streak. Juan Arambula in 2006 was sent to the state Capitol’s most notorious office — nicknamed the Doghouse — by then-Assembly Speaker Fabián Núñez after refusing to vote yes on several public works bonds because the package did not include water for dams. Juan Arambula later changed his party registration from Democrat to independent, a move that cost him a committee chairmanship.
“I will advocate for the Valley and be the same independent-minded politician as my father,” Joaquin Arambula said. “I might get thrown into the basement for speaking my mind.”