Political Notebook

Bakersfield school trustee opts out of Valadao challenge

Bakersfield City School District Trustee Andrae Gonzales.
Bakersfield City School District Trustee Andrae Gonzales.

Bakersfield City School District Trustee Andrae Gonzales will not challenge incumbent Republican David Valadao in the 21st Congressional District.

“After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided not to run for Congress at this time,” Gonzales wrote on his Facebook page. “The reason is simple: my dad died three months ago and I need to spend more time with my family right now. While I remain ambitious and committed to improving the conditions of our community, I cannot give all that it takes to run for Congress at this time.”

When news broke last week that Gonzales was exploring a congressional run, he said he was still “working through the loss” of his father.”

In his Wednesday note, Gonzales said he was asked a few weeks ago “by a few local folks” to consider a congressional run. At the time, he said, he was in Washington, D.C., with his mother to meet with the Guillain-Barre Foundation International. So he took the opportunity to meet with “several congressional leaders to explore the possibility of a congressional campaign. I told everyone then that I would have to go back home to reflect and pray about the opportunity.”

Gonzales’ decision leaves Fowler Mayor Pro Tem Daniel T. Parra as Valadao’s lone Democratic Party challenger. Parra has been in the race more than six months, but it’s clear that he hasn’t sparked interest among Democratic Party leaders, and it is equally clear he either hasn’t excited donors, or hasn’t asked them for money. Either way, Democrats have been casting about to find a viable challenger for Valadao. Gonzales’ name popped up after Tulare County native Connie Perez backed out of her campaign less than a month after announcing she would run.

It didn’t take long for the National Republican Congressional Committee to pile on.

“It’s time for the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) to acknowledge that they are stuck with 3rd tier candidate Daniel Parra – the only Democrat in the race and the one person who they didn’t want to run,” NRCC Spokesman Zach Hunter said in a statement. “After back-to-back double digit losses here, Democrats should prepare themselves for another rough election night in 2016.”

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 voter registration advantage and President Barack Obama won 55.7 percent of the vote in 2012. Still, Valadao won 57.8 percent of the vote to Democrat John Hernandez's 42.2 percent in 2012 and won by the same margin last year against Democrat Amanda Renteria, a central San Joaquin Valley native with a sterling résumé and a Stanford undergrad degree.