With Donald Trump and other presidential contenders consuming much of the oxygen in politics, we don’t blame voters in Assembly District 31 for possibly overlooking the fact they are being asked to fill out ballots three times in 2016.
This flurry of voting activity was set in motion by Henry T. Perea’s decision to exit the state Capitol a year ahead of schedule and go to work for a pharmaceutical industry organization.
Thus Gov. Jerry Brown called a special election for April 5 to fill the seat for the remainder of the term. If none of the candidates – emergency room physician Joaquin Arambula of Kingsburg, Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier and Caruthers engineer Ted Miller – receives a majority of the vote, the two top candidates will square off in the June 7 primary.
That date also is when District 31 voters will determine, under California’s “top two” election system, who advances to the Nov. 8 general election. The winner on Nov. 8 will be the district representative for a new two-year term beginning in December.
Confused? We don’t blame you.
We have another date to add to the pile: Monday, March 7. That’s when early voting begins for this special election.
The campaign thus far has been a jumbled mess: accusations, “gotcha” tactics and cancellation of a major debate that was to be televised March 21 by ABC30 and Univision and broadcast by KMJ radio.
While acknowledging that Arambula hasn’t helped his cause by ducking debates, he is best suited to represent the economically challenged district, which includes a portion of the city of Fresno and more than 20 other Fresno County cities and communities.
As the grandson of farmworkers, Arambula knows the challenges that immigrants face and the path to success. He is a conservative Democrat, which is another good fit for the district. In a Legislature dominated by Democrats, it would be difficult for a Republican, however well-intentioned, to deliver what the people of the 31st need.
In a meeting with The Fresno Bee editorial board, Arambula said that water is the No. 1 issue facing the Valley. In addition, he understands the complexities of water. For example, he connected water not just to the economic vitality of agriculture but also to residents’ health. While other politicians grasp that people must have access to safe, clean drinking water, Arambula pointed out that some district residents can’t afford medical prescriptions because the drought and the drastic cut in irrigation deliveries have dried up jobs in farming and related industries.
He said that the “farms vs. fish” sound bite is not helping the effort to secure irrigation water for the Valley. He supports the construction of two new reservoirs in California, at Temperance Flat and in Northern California. He also called for additional investment in water recycling and underground storage.
Arambula backs high-speed rail, career technical education, the creation of a publicly funded medical school in the Valley and modifications to Proposition 47 that would reduce crime while still steering those addicted to drugs and alcohol into substance-abuse recovery programs.
What we like best about Arambula is his promise of taking a scientific approach to Sacramento. In other words, he will use data – not talking points – to evaluate policy and legislation.
Olivier, a Republican, has a passion for serving constituents. He is politically seasoned, bilingual and hardworking. But during his appearance before the editorial board, it was clear that he doesn’t have a handle on health care policy. That is a serious shortcoming in a district where access to health care is daunting for many residents.
Still, we loved Olivier’s idea of forming a bipartisan poverty caucus among Assembly members from districts with economic and social challenges similar to those in the 31st. Such a caucus might be effective in helping bridge the widening gap between rich and poor in our state.
On balance, Arambula is the best candidate. We recommend him for the Assembly.