Political Notebook

Connie Perez drops out of 21st Congressional District race

Connie Perez
Connie Perez

Tulare County native Connie Perez, who less than a month ago jumped into the 21st Congressional District race with a slick campaign video and the apparent support of national Democrats who are looking for ways to oust incumbent Republican David Valadao, abruptly ended her campaign Tuesday.

Perez, 39, issued a short written statement announcing her decision.

“I am humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement that I have received from the constituents of the 21st Congressional District over the last eight weeks as I have explored the opportunity to run for Congress,” she says in the statement.

“After careful consideration of all the factors, including my family, business, and public service commitments to the boards and commissions that I serve, I have decided not to pursue my candidacy at this time in my career. I will continue to work tirelessly to improve the lives of the residents in the Central Valley, as I always have.”

Perez’s departure leaves Fowler Mayor Pro-Tem Daniel T. Parra as the sole Democrat seeking to oust Valadao, a Hanford dairy farmer who has soundly beaten two challengers despite representing a district where Democrats hold a 17 percentage point registration edge over Republicans.

A certified public accountant and partner at the Bakersfield-based Brown Armstrong Accountancy Corp., Perez seemed to be a find for Democrats who were frustrated by Parra’s anemic fundraising efforts. As of Sept. 30, Parra has raised less than $40,000 and has a little more than $10,000 in his campaign account. Valadao, in the meantime, has raised more than $900,000 and has around $770,000 cash on hand. Parra announced his candidacy almost seven months ago.

In early September, word leaked that Perez was exploring a late entry into the race. She confirmed she was considering a run.

On Oct. 9, she announced her run with a campaign video that mixed Spanish- and English-language messages and featured scenes of her time growing up in Tulare County. Part of the video was filmed at the Woodville Labor Camp where she grew up as one of three children.

“I’m not a career politician,” Perez says in the video. “I’m a woman that was raised here and is ready to lead.”

At a United Farm Workers event at the Forty Acres in Delano, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta singled out Perez, telling the crowd: “Don’t forget that name.”

Parra also was at the UFW rally, but went unrecognized.

In a written statement, Valadao for Congress spokesman Cole Rojewski said “liberals” in Washington, D.C., keep trying to recruit candidates – but all are flawed.

“It’s no surprise that these candidates, who are not from the Central Valley, are unable to gain support from voters. Central Valley residents deserve more,” Rojewski says in the statement.

Rojewski’s words about Perez “not being from the Central Valley” were related to her current residence in Pasadena, where she had been doing work for Brown Armstrong. Had Perez stayed in the race, it likely would have been a campaign issue, even though she grew up in Tulare County, went to college in Bakersfield and lived several years in Kern County.

Despite that, Democrats thought highly of Perez as a candidate.

The 21st Congressional District – which includes all of Kings County and parts of Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties – is a majority Latino district where Democrats hold a 17 percentage point registration edge over Republicans. President Barack Obama won 55.7 percent of the vote in 2012.

Valadao has overcome those odds and won with ease. In 2012, he took 57.8 percent of the vote to Democrat John Hernandez’s 42.2 percent. Hernandez had little money and almost no support from national Democrats.

Last year, Democrat Amanda Renteria, a central San Joaquin Valley native with a sterling résumé and a Stanford undergrad degree, was much better prepared. She raised more than $1.7 million. The end result was exactly the same: Valadao won 57.8 percent of the vote, and Renteria got 42.2 percent.