Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza, a Republican, has filed to run for election in the 26th Assembly District in hopes of unseating one-term incumbent Devon Mathis of Visalia, also a Republican.
It’s a grudge match.
Two years ago, Mendoza ran for the seat and was favored to win because he had the backing of the local Republican establishment and more money, but Mathis walked away with the prize.
Under the state’s “top two” primary system, the two Republicans faced off in the general election.
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“I’ve watched for 15 months as Mr. Mathis fumbled with the issues,” Mendoza said. “He doesn’t represent the conservative values of the district.”
The district includes most of Tulare County, part of Kern and all of Inyo County.
Mendoza criticized Mathis for attending the grand opening of the Visalia office of the Democrats.
“This is a 14-percentage point Republican advantage district,” Mendoza said. “The values of this district are not in line with opening up the headquarters of the Democrat party.”
Mathis said he’s simply doing his job.
“I pride myself on doing bipartisan politics,” he said. “As an Assembly member, it’s my job to work with everybody.”
Mathis said resources that the Republican caucus would use to help Fresno Republican Clint Olivier in his race for Assembly will have to be used to help him fend off Mendoza.
Mendoza said Mathis is “assuming the caucus will support him.”
Late Friday afternoon, it appeared that Mathis and Mendoza would be the only Republicans to file and pay the fees. Democrat Ruben Macareno of Visalia has also filed in Tulare County. Macareno was also part of the seven-candidate race (four Republicans and three Democrats, all from Tulare County) who sought to replace termed-out Assemblywoman Connie Conway in 2014.
Hopefuls in most elections had until 5 p.m. Friday to file the necessary paperwork to become candidates in the June 7 state primary election. (In races where the incumbent is eligible but not seeking reelection, the filing period is extended five days.) County election offices were expected to set final fields by early next week.