Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida said he will run for Governor in 2018 as a Republican. He said he came to the decision this year, the middle of his third term as Supervisor, as Tulare County has been the poster child for the four-year drought and its effects on low income residents in the poorest region of the country.
“Drought is an issue that is in the forefront of Tulare County,” Ishida said. “That will be the No. 1 focus of my candidacy.”
Water has become the Supervisor’s expertise as he travels to Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. to inform state and federal representatives about the devastation the drought has caused in Tulare County. Thousands of acres of citrus are being pushed out of production along the Valley’s eastside due to a lack of water. Dairies, producers of the County and State’s top crop, have been unable to feed their herds and other crops have been taken out of production altogether.
Ishida represents the First District which covers the northeastern portion of Tulare County, including the communities of Exeter, Farmersville, Lemon Cove, Lindsay, Strathmore, Three Rivers, East Visalia and portions of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and Sequoia National Forest. Ishida’s district has been the one of the hardest hit by drought with the communities of Lindsay and Strathmore unable to pump groundwater for basic necessities due to high contamination levels. The drought has even robbed hamlets such as Tooleville and Tonyville of any hope from connecting to nearby cities for safe quality and quantity of water.
“We weren’t ready for this drought and our infrastructure won’t be ready for the next one either,” Ishida said. “This is not a regional issue, it is a statewide issue.”
But what is even scarier for Ishida is what comes after the drought ends. He said every historic drought is followed by a historic flood year, a trend that plays out internationally every year. He said the Governor and legislature are so focused on saving water they haven’t done anything to help capture the glut of water coming our way and save it for the next drought.
“We need additional storage, even more than the bond will provide,” Ishida said referring to the $7.5 million water bond passed by California voters in November. “That flood will start the next drought, and if we aren’t planning now than we won’t have the infrastructure to prevent us from the next disaster.”
In an interview earlier this month, Ishida said that he filed his intent to run for Governor on May 15. Ishida can’t formally declare his candidacy until 2016 but said he wanted to get an early start.
Ishida was elected as the District 1 representative on the Board of Supervisors in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2012. He will serve out the remainder of his term until November 2016 giving him another two years before the 2018 Gubernatorial Primary Election. Ishida said that will give him time to overcome his biggest challenge, stumping for votes in metropolitan areas to the north and south. Ishida said California is unique in that the Governorship flips between Republican and Democrat despite an overwhelmingly democratic legislature. He said his common sense approach and experience dealing with State policies and programs on the local level make him an ideal candidate to help inform gather support from both sides of the political aisle.
“There are a lot of Democrats who are unhappy with what’s going on,” Ishida said. “They don’t like high speed rail, they don’t like that a large percentage of University of California students are from out of state and they don’t like regulations handicapping efforts to solve water issues.”
Garnering support in the voting power centers of the Bay Area and Southern California have always been the hook holding Valley candidates back. The last Tulare County resident to run for Governor was Democrat and radiologist Frank Macaluso Jr. in the 2003 recall election. Unfortunately, Macaluso only garnered .15% of the vote in his own county.
“No one from the Valley has really tried to run in recent memory because of not being able to tap into the metropolitan areas,” Ishida said. “I think the State is ready for a farm boy to take office.”
Despite a six-figure salary as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Ishida still lives in a 2,000-square foot ranch house on his third generation family farm. He said growing up in an agrarian culture has kept him grounded to common problems most Californians face and using common sense to find solutions.
“I am not a socialite or an elitist,” he said. “The people I associate with are everyday people from all walks of life who are concerned with providing for their family.”
Transportation is another issue Ishida is familiar with on a regional and state level. Ishida sits on the California Freight Advisory Committee (overseeing commercial rail in the State), Tulare County Association of Governments (the County’s transportation agency), Tulare County Local Agency Formation Committee (which oversees annexation, district boundary and land designation issues), and the California Association of Councils of Government (a coalition of County transportation agencies). Ishida is also past chairman and continues to sit on the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council, comprised of two transportation representatives from each of the eight San Joaquin Valley counties, whose chairman authorized the organization to take over Amtrak passenger rail through the Valley.
“I think our Governor and State Legislature have forgotten something I realized in my first term on the Board of Supervisors,” Ishida said. “The Governor is not a figurehead of the State but an employee of the people of the State.”
For those in favor of running the State government more like a business, Tulare County is the model of fiscal conservation. He said the County’s pension funds are 90% funded, the County had enough cash to build a new jail using matching funds out of the General Fund and by August, the County will not have any long term debt.
“I think people would be amazed to know financially what Tulare County has accomplished,” he said. “We are the bright spot in California when it comes to running a county. And that was true even before I was on the Board.”
One of the biggest challenges Ishida sees to doing business in California is it’s overbearing environmental regulations. Ishida said he would like to streamline environmental policies to avoid delays in major projects. The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA (pronounced see-kwa), is the process state agencies and local governments use to evaluate and mitigate environmental effects that may result from new projects or upgrading existing infrastructure. But years of litigation and over regulation have mired the process to the point where they are delayed, often beyond the point of public safety needs and public funding resources. But the biggest cost of the environmental law is not to the business but the governmental agency that has to enforce it.
“It costs the government even more than it costs private industry, so it is extremely inefficient all the way around,” Ishida said.