The latest voter registration numbers are not encouraging for the California Republican Party. Of the people who have registered to vote since the start of 2016, only 15 percent have declared their affiliation with the GOP.
Interestingly, the millennials who have helped swell California’s registered voter total this year to more than 18.2 million are twice as likely to register as decline-to-state than to sign up as Republicans, according to an analysis by CALmatters, which provides nonpartisan analysis of state politics.
One of the few parts of California where Republicans still wield considerable power is the San Joaquin Valley. We are recommending that voters return three of them – Frank Bigelow, Devon Mathis and Jim Patterson – to their seats in the Assembly.
We also recommend that incumbent Democrats Adam Gray and Joaquin Arambula be re-elected to their Assembly seats.
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5th Assembly District – Perhaps if more Republicans adopted Bigelow’s pragmatic approach to leadership and legislative voting, the GOP would reverse its slide in California. The O’Neals lawmaker and rancher is respected by his peers and is often asked to sign on to legislation. He has done an outstanding job of speaking up and representing the mostly foothill and mountain counties of the district, which stretches from Madera to Lake Tahoe.
21st Assembly District – Gray has been an instrumental part of the unofficial Valley Caucus with its focus on water storage, predatory lawsuit reform, workers’ compensation reform and making UC Merced a destination university. He is playing a lead role in trying to protect the century-old water rights of those who depend on the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers.
We don’t always agree with him – his deal on gambling reform (internet, tribal casino and horse racing) leaves us cold. But Gray is a savvy and forceful player in the Capitol. Republicans should not make the mistake of voting for Greg Opinski out of party loyalty. Opinski is not actively campaigning and is under indictment for trying to bribe public officials.
23rd Assembly District – This race is an example of California’s “Top 2” primary system in action. Incumbent Jim Patterson faces Gwen Morris in an all-Republican matchup. Patterson embarrassed himself last year when he compared the outcomes of a bill to tighten school vaccination requirements to forced internment camps. The Fresno lawmaker later said he made a bad choice of words.
Still, Patterson is a capable and experienced politician whose conservative, pro-business agenda reflects the values of district voters.
Morris, who is a retired nonprofit executive with experience in law enforcement and education, is running a grass-roots campaign. She is using this election to get her name out in hopes of running for the seat again in 2018, when Patterson might choose to run for higher office.
26th Assembly District – Incumbent Devon Mathis’ “putting people over politics” philosophy has made him a rising star in the California GOP and an outstanding representative for this South Valley district.
He has fought for water – both for farmers and rural residents. He is a strong advocate for strengthening California public schools and for special-needs students.
During his second tour of Iraq with the Army National Guard, he was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb explosion. His recovery and subsequent graduation from Fresno State have provided him with great insight into veterans issues.
We disagree with Mathis’ positions on several issues, including his opposition to farmworker overtime, but admire his independence and willingness to work with Democrats to find compromise on legislation that helps Californians.
31st Assembly District – Arambula won a special election in April to replace Henry T. Perea, who resigned the seat to go into the private sector. Arambula then qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot by finishing first in the June primary.
He already has helped the Valley by co-authoring climate-change legislation that is directing $70 million to the Fresno area for affordable housing, high-speed rail construction and new parks.
An emergency-room doctor before entering politics, Arambula has renewed the conversation about building a medical school in Fresno, either with public or private financing. This strong start suggests that he will become an influential voice on jobs, climate change and health care in the Capitol.