Political Notebook

A new Democrat emerges in the 21st Congressional District

Bakersfield Democrat Connie Perez
Bakersfield Democrat Connie Perez

It looks like the Democrats don’t like the way things are shaping up in their effort to oust Hanford Republican David Valadao from the 21st Congressional District.

So far, Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel T. Parra is in the race, and was gathering endorsements from various Democrats around the state, including state Controller Betty Yee, Rep. Loretta Sanchez and various local labor leaders.

But then came Parra’s campaign finance report, which showed his fundraising through the first six months of this year. It was a disaster.

Parra raised a little more than $24,000 and, after counting debts, only had around $4,000 in his campaign account.

Valadao, by comparison, has more than $600,000 in his campaign account, not to mention the power of incumbency and a 2-0 record against Democratic Party challengers -- even though Democrats hold a 16-point registration advantage in the district.

In other words, Valadao is formidable. He is consistently on lists of vulnerable Republicans. To date, however, he’s easily dispatched two challengers, including well-financed Amanda Renteria last year.

It’s unclear if Parra’s fundraising troubles are what spurred the party into action or who approached who first, but a new name is now in the mix — Connie Perez.

The Tulare County native is currently a certified public accountant and a partner with Bakersfield-based Brown Armstrong. The firm has offices in Stockton, Fresno and Pasadena, and right now Perez is working out of the Pasadena office.

But she’s also “very strongly considering a run,” she said in an interview.

“I have been approached by a lot of people to consider running for the seat,” she said. “There’s a lot of very strong support for a run.”

It appears that among those interested in Perez is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sources say Perez has met with the DCCC and is headed to Washington D.C. at the end of the month.

Perez, 39, was born in Tulare and grew up in the Woodville Farm Labor Camp. At age 17, she moved to Porterville. She attended college at California State University at Bakersfield.

But Parra shows no signs of backing down, setting up the possibility of a three-person primary election next June. Only the top two finishers, regardless of political party, advance to the November general election. When asked for comment, the Parra campaign responded with a written statement from Michael Evans, chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Party.

“Central Valley Democrats are enthusiastically united behind lifelong Democrat Daniel Parra’s campaign for Congress,” Evans’ statement said. “He is the only candidate who is truly homegrown here in the Central Valley, who shares our values and who we are fully confident will fight on our behalf in Washington. Unlike this prospective opponent, who appears to be a recent convert to the Democratic Party and is currently registered to vote in Pasadena — a metropolitan area well outside of the district — Daniel Parra is a committed, lifelong Democrat who is firmly dedicated to our party and our principles.”

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