As the countdown to the June primary elections winds down, the two candidates who battled fiercely for California Assembly District 31 are gathering themselves for another round.
The district is one of a few local Assembly seats up for grabs. The June 7 primary will thin the field in two races, but virtually all of the Assembly candidates are planning for the general election on Nov. 8. Most eyes – especially in Fresno – are firmly set on AD 31.
Assembly District 31
Kingsburg Democrat Joaquin Arambula, a physician, and Republican Clint Olivier, a Fresno city councilman, traded barbs during a frenetic debate schedule leading up to the April 5 special election for Henry T. Perea’s vacated assembly seat. Attack ads played on the radio and TV. Complaints against campaign practices were filed.
Arambula won, securing 54 percent of the vote to Olivier’s 40. A third candidate, Caruthers Democrat Ted Miller, finished last with 6 percent. The 31st Assembly District covers much of western Fresno County, including the southern part of the city of Fresno.
However, the seat will be up for grabs again in the November general election, and both Arambula and Olivier are currently lying low until the storm returns in June.
“We’re sitting tight until June,” Olivier said in an interview. “We expect to make the runoff, and anything can happen in November.”
But Olivier understands that overcoming a 12-point deficit will be difficult, and he can narrow down the reason to one thing: money.
“We continue to raise the money that we need to fund the campaign,” he said. “But it is just a drop in the bucket compared to the tsunami of special interest that has funded my opponent.”
$1.6 millionThe amount raised to elect Joaquin Arambula to AD 31.
According to state election records, Arambula raised about $1.1 million. Two anti-Olivier groups unaffiliated with the Democrat’s campaign spent an additional $500,000. Olivier’s campaign raised and spent about $540,000.
Arambula, three weeks into his new job, said his campaign apparatus was still running at full steam, but he is more focused on doing what he can in Sacramento to help out the central San Joaquin Valley.
“I met with Gov. (Jerry) Brown last week to make budget asks for more healthcare access (in the Valley),” he said.
The assemblyman said he also has partnered with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to ask for $375 million in state cap-and-trade money to improve local roadways and fund more public transportation options.
Both candidates have their sights centered firmly on one another, as they believe Miller will be eliminated in the primary.
Miller has said he is not giving up, though he also brought up the massive funding disparity among the candidates. He has maintained a campaign stance centered on bringing more water to farmers. He plans to continue campaigning across the district in hopes of making it out of the primary, but that seems unlikely given his distant third-place showing in the special election.
Jim Patterson is running for his third term in the California Assembly.
The June primary will be a formality for the only two candidates in this race: incumbent Jim Patterson and challenger Gwen Morris, both Republicans from Fresno. Both will move on to the general election for the district, which covers eastern Fresno County as well as the northern part of Fresno.
Patterson, who has held the seat for two terms, said he remains focused on “the things that really matter to this region.”
He believes California as a whole is not creating the number of jobs it should be as the country comes out of a deep recession. The cost of living – even in the Valley – is too high because of bad government policies, he added.
Finally, Patterson hopes to find more lasting solutions to water issues and public safety problems – specifically the inadvertently negative effects of Proposition 47, which reclassified drug possession and a few other minor crimes as misdemeanors.
Morris is running against a fellow Republican – with no help from her party – because “sometimes professional politicians aren’t as effective” in public office. She is a retired teacher and local advocate, having served as the senior director for faith-based nonprofit One by One Leadership and executive director for Fresno Works for Better Health Advocacy Center. One by One teaches residents of low-income neighborhoods to improve their neighborhoods.
She also believes that criminal justice reform is an important issue, as well as improving local schools.
The primary carries the most weight for the 5th District, where a field of four will be cut in half after June 7. The massive district covers parts of nine counties in the Sierra Nevada foothills, including Madera and Mariposa counties.
Incumbent Frank Bigelow, a Republican from O’Neals, is running for a third term. He ran unopposed in 2014. The rancher and longtime volunteer firefighter who likes to wear a cowboy hat was a Madera County supervisor from 1998-2012.
Bigelow said that keeping government out of the way of small businesses is a top priority, as well as building the Temperance Flat Dam and Sites Reservoir. He also hopes to de-fund high-speed rail.
Marc Belden, who is registered as no-party preference and lives in Rail Road Flat in Calaveras County, is running against Bigelow for the second time. In 2012, he finished fifth in the primary with 4 percent of the vote.
Belden, a carpenter who owns Inspiration Lodge in Pioneer, Calif., believes he would bring a unique skill set to the district. He also holds a master’s degree in occupational health from City University of New York.
We’re living 50 years behind the times, but they expect us to be up to date with this stuff.
California Assembly District 5 candidate Marc Belden
Like Bigelow, Belden wants to cut back state regulations that he believes hold back small-business owners.
“If we build something, we need a structural engineer or an architect to check everything,” he said. “And we have – maybe one of those in each county? We’re living 50 years behind the times, but they expect us to be up to date with this stuff.”
Kai Ellsworth, of Greenwood in El Dorado County, is one of two Democrats competing for a spot in the general election. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran who was wounded in Iraq in 2009 and is currently studying political science at Sierra College.
Ellsworth said he joined the race because of how underrepresented rural California is in the Assembly. He believes the nine counties in the district lack basic public services, which have caused high poverty and domestic violence rates.
He also would hope to establish a minimum response time for emergency services, saying that sheriff’s deputies can take up to 90 minutes to respond to active crime scenes.
Ellsworth pledged to work toward guaranteeing high-speed Internet access and cellphone service for foothill residents. He said that broadband should be a public utility, and the lack of rural access to it puts residents at a major disadvantage.
Robert Carabas, a retired painter, carpenter and businessman from Sonora, is the other Democrat.
Carabas could not be reached for comment, but his website notes a few issues that he is passionate about. He hopes to help the district use alternative sources of energy and fuel given the rise of global warming. He also supports the state minimum wage increase and hopes to simplify healthcare.
Assembly District 32
Bakersfield Democrat Rudy Salas is running unopposed for re-election.
Assembly District 5
Occupation: Assemblyman, volunteer firefighter, rancher, businessman
Education: Sierra High School graduate
Occupation: Carpenter, small-business owner
Hometown: Rail Road Flat
Education: Master of Science, Occupational Health, City University of New York; Bachelor of Science, Occupational Health, California State University
Education: Studying political science at Sierra College
Occupation: Painter, credit manager, carpenter, designer
Education: Graduate UC Berkeley, English UCB Secondary Teaching Credential; California College of Arts and Craft; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
Assembly District 23
Occupation: Assemblyman, former mayor and broadcast executive
Occupation: Retired nonprofit executive, teacher
Education: Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Fresno State
Assembly District 31
Occupation: Assemblyman, physician
Education: Edison High School; Bowdoin College; University of Minnesota Medical School and Rural Physician Program
Occupation: Fresno city councilman
Education: Associate’s from Orange Coast College
Occupation: Advocate, engineer
Education: Bachelor’s in Engineering, University of Southern California; Master’s in Finance and Operations, University of Southern California
Assembly District 32
Education: University of California at Los Angeles