Amy Shuklian wins reelection by 20% differential, says race was one of the most negative in 15 years of public service
By Paul Myers
TULARE COUNTY – Last week’s election settled the most contentious local race in Tulare County between incumbent District Three Board Supervisor, Amy Shuklian and challenger Brad Maaske.
As of Monday’s canvass report, Shuklian maintained her healthy margin of victory 58.3% to Maaske’s 37.9%. The numbers have moved only slightly since March 3’s first election night report where Shuklian took a commanding lead, 58.2% to 38%.
Shuklian said that she was ecstatic to get a win, but the last few months have been difficult because of the personal attacks she endured from Maaske’s supporters on social media. Some from Maaske himself who posted a meme of two photos: one of President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Palosi with perturbed expressions, and another of a Sun-Gazette photo with himself and Shuklian sitting side-by-side at the Visalia District One and District Three forum in January. The letters scrawled across the photos spelling out, “I know how you feel Brad!” indicating Trump was talking to him.
“In my 15 years of office I have never had so much negativity towards me. I had people calling me names and inferring things about me personally. Brad did that meme, I had my friends being called thugs. I had somebody telling me that I had a child,” Shuklian said.
As well, three of Shuklian’s signs on Mooney Boulevard were defaced with bigoted terms aimed toward her sexual orientation. Shuklian said another Maaske supporter posted a comment on social media alluding to her weight.
“One lady posted, ‘saw your opponent at the farmers market and that I am an undisciplined and unhappy person,’” Shuklian said.
She added that the vitriol from the public during the campaign was the biggest difference from her first run for supervisor and her second. But added that she continued to “stay the course.”
“I focused on my message and focused on my campaign and walked door to door. I can’t say I wasn’t scared at times,” Shuklian said.
She said that had her opponent been different, the campaign would not have been as ugly. On election night, she was still “cautiously confident.”
“When we walked and talked to people, the people who’d say they’d support me [compared to] some who said they wouldn’t was like 70-80%…so I had a good idea but you just never know,” Shuklian said.
Maaske said that he was surprised by the outcome of the election.
“I really felt our message had reached more people. The thousand plus people I was able to speak directly to said my message and plan made sense,” Maaske said.
Ultimately, he placed his downfall on the fact that he started his race late in 2019. Maaske added that it was because of his radio show on KMJ. Had he continued the show while running for office the station would have had to give equal time to Shuklian.
“This made it difficult to get some key endorsements and it also hindered my ability to get in front of enough people to present my message and ideas,” Maaske said.
In an email interview with The Sun-Gazette, Maaske pointed to local news coverage and a Shuklian smear campaign as well.
“I was very disappointed with the news coverage. My opponent had an organized smear campaign taking public record items and distorting them into much more than the truth. Their campaign had members regularly call the papers with the partially true stories to make them appear organic,” Maaske said.
He added that other local news organizations ran Shuklian campaign press releases as if they were news stories. And stated that local papers did not investigate “the issues.”
“I have yet to see any press on how much has been spent by the county and various cities to study the homeless issue. I have yet to see any stories on the success of low barrier facilities that I suggested for the county,” Maaske said. “Nobody in the press has investigated the low pay for County Fire Fighters… No stories about the District Attorneys office which now is short 9 attorneys because the pay is so low they can’t retain employees. This lack of curiosity about the real issues made it much more difficult to get my message out.”
The Sun-Gazette will issue an editorial next week in response to Maaske’s claims that local media has not covered the county’s funding dedicated to homelessness, and other issues he has pointed out above.
Maaske said that if he were to do something differently, it would have been starting his race earlier.
Approaching her second term as supervisor Shuklian said that her focus will continue to be homelessness, as chair of the county homeless task force.
“There are things happening despite what brad was saying. There is the most energy and collaboration than there has ever been regarding the homeless,” Shuklian said.
District One Board Supervisor
The race for incumbent supervisor Kuyler Crocker’s seat will not be decided until November.
In a race between Crocker, former sheriff’s captain Larry Micari and former Exeter mayor Robyn Stearns, the incumbent on the second most votes. As of Monday’s canvass report, Crocker received 35.7% while Micari earned 43.9% and Stearns came in last with 15.5%.
Shortly after the election Micari’s campaign issued a statement that he plans to reach out to Stearns’ voters for November.
“Robyn is a leader in Exeter and in Tulare County and she has served our community with courage, commitment, and integrity for many years,” Micari said. “I look forward to connecting with her supporters because when they voted for her yesterday, they joined my voters in sending a message that they wanted a change on the Board of Supervisors.”
Larry touted several endorsements throughout the primary. Some of the most notable being Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, supervisor Pete Vander Poel, former state senator Andy Vidak and others.
Crocker said that his support is a testament to the work he has been doing within the last four years.
“I’m honored to have the confidence of thousands of voters and look forward to demonstrating the great work the county is doing to a majority of the voters in November,” Crocker told The Sun-Gazette. “In the meantime, I will continue to fight and advocate for the citizens of District One and Tulare County.”
Tulare County decidedly voted against the state’s Prop 13 school bond. Statewide the prop is failing 45.7% to 54.3%. Countywide, the numbers are much more bleak. Only 31% of voters decided they wanted to fork over some extra cash for schools, while 69% decided not to.
The vote came as a stark rebuke to Visalia Unified School District whose Measure A local school bond depended on Prop 13’s passage to ultimately complete the construction of another high school, among other projects.
The Sun-Gazette reported early last month that Measure A, which passed in 2018, will come up about $70 million short of its current plans to build a new high school.
The original construction cost estimate for the new high school was $150 million and was planned to be paid through a 50-50 matching contribution from the State and Measure A funds. Since the original estimate in 2017, the cost of the new high school has grown to $189.5 million, based on similar projects in surrounding counties, and the estimated match from the State has fallen from $75 million to $44.6 million.
According to assistant superintended of administrative services, Robert Groeber, if Prop 13 continues to fail over the next 23 days of canvassing, the district will have to wait until new school construction money becomes available before moving forward with a fifth high school.