EDITORIAL: Perez has skills, knowledge to help 16th district prosper

The passage of Proposition 28 last June has increased the importance of Tuesday's special election for the state's 16th District Senate seat.

The winner of this race not only will represent the district through 2014, but he or she has the likely prospect of serving in the Senate for 12 additional years because of term-limits modifications approved by voters and the power of incumbency.

We believe that Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez of Bakersfield has the political skills and knowledge of San Joaquin Valley issues to provide more opportunities for 16th District residents to prosper.

We recommend that voters elect her to replace Michael Rubio, who resigned his Senate seat to work for Chevron Corp.

We don't agree with all of Perez's positions. In fact, we believe that her support of a $9.25 minimum wage is a gimmick to attract attention and raise her name identification in the Fresno portion of the district.

But Perez recognizes the importance of the high-speed rail project -- which she supports -- to the Valley economy, and she has a firm grasp of California's water storage and delivery system, as well as the pressing need to restore the environmental health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

We expect that Perez, who describes herself as a "conservative" Democrat, will network effectively and build coalitions that help Valley residents -- not just those in her district.

Her leading rival in the the five-candidate race is Andy Vidak, a Hanford farmer and small-business owner who nearly knocked off Rep. Jim Costa in 2010.

Vidak, who is likeable and well-intentioned, also is touting his ability to work in a bipartisan manner. And we like his commitment to bringing safe, clean drinking water to small communities where residents must buy bottled water.

Vidak, however, opposes the high-speed rail project, and his views on what it will take to fix the Delta are more influenced by the desires of Valley farming interests than on the reality of the estuary's alarming deterioration.

On Tuesday, we recommend the candidacy of Leticia Perez.