Tulare County Republican Devon Mathis won a surprising victory last year in the 26th Assembly District, defeating a candidate who was supported by a large chunk of the local GOP establishment.
There’s been talk in some 26th District Republican circles of finding someone to challenge Mathis next year. This isn’t news to Mathis. He’s fighting back by being hyper-focused on constituent service (he was in Bishop on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada on Friday) and improving his name identification in the sprawling, Republican-dominated district, which covers almost all of Tulare County, a tiny part of Kern and all of Inyo County.
He also hopes some of his fellow Republicans upset at his unlikely victory rethink trying to take him out.
“We’re hoping that cooler heads prevail,” says Sean Doherty, his chief of staff.
Still, Mathis’ first campaign finance report since taking office was less than stellar. He raised just $71,000 between Jan. 1 and June 30, and has around $48,000 in his campaign account.
Some Sacramento-based GOP analysts and fundraisers, who asked not to be identified because they were speaking ill of a fellow Republican, say Mathis needs to pick up the pace if there is a chance he may face a credible challenger next year.
“The vultures circle and they take a look” at the reports, one retired GOP staffer said.
For comparison purposes, Fresno Republican Jim Patterson raised $194,000 during the first six months of 2015 and has $124,000 in his account. Patterson was unchallenged in his reelection bid last year.
Doherty says the Mathis camp isn’t concerned.
“We are picking it up; it’s already starting to pick up. Devon had some fundraising hiccups the first quarter, but that has been turned around. The second half of the year will look very good.”
Doherty says Patterson has an advantage over Mathis because he is in his second term and has a built-in fundraising base from his time as Fresno’s mayor. Mathis, by comparison, is still building his base.
Already, Doherty says, Mathis has signed endorsements from every Assembly Republican as well as every central San Joaquin Valley Republican senator — Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte.