Online candidate forums for local races to be held next week

County Supervisor, Assembly forum will be held on Sept. 15 and Tulare City Council forum on Sept. 17

TULARE COUNTY – This November will be an historic election deciding which direction the nation will turn, further to the right or veering left. It will also be the first time every voter in Tulare County will automatically receive a ballot in the mail and will get an extra three days at polling sites to cast their vote in person.

To help voters decide some of those key races before ballots mail-in ballots can be counted on Oct. 5, The Sun-Gazette has teamed up with the Tulare County Realtor’s Association, Visalia Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Council of Realtors to offer two, online candidates forums at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15 and Thursday, Sept. 17. Both debates will be streamed live on The Sun-Gazette’s Facebook page, as well as the chamber and realtor’s associations pages. For those who cannot watch live, the forums will be recorded and rebroadcast on the newspaper’s Paper Trail Podcast YouTube channel.

The first forum will begin with the Tulare County Supervisorial race for District 1 between incumbent Kuyler Crocker and challenger Larry Micari. Former Tulare County Sheriff’s Capt. Micari garnered 44.4% of the vote in a three-way race in the primary. Crocker, a Strathmore farmer, finished the primary with 35.3% of the vote and former Exeter mayor Robyn Stearns finished with 15.5%. Supervisor races require one candidate to get more than 50% of the vote. If not, the top two voter getters move onto the November election.

The county candidates will be followed by the race to represent most of Tulare County, District 26, in the State Assembly. Republican Assemblymember Devon Mathis is being challenged by Democrat Drew Phelps, a land use manager for Granville Homes. Mathis, a three-term incumbent and military veteran, amassed nearly two-thirds of the vote in the primary, but California’s jungle primary allows the second-place finisher a second chance at winning the seat, regardless if the first-place finisher garnered a majority of votes.

Next Thursday evening, Tulare voters will get a chance to see all nine city council candidates answer questions about their views on local issues. Three incumbents are running to retain their seats on the council. In District 1, incumbent Jose Sigala, who has worked in state and local government for more than 20 years, will face off against entrepreneur Clara Bernardo. Incumbent Carlton Jones, a firefighter, will be defending his District 3 seat against Steve Harrell, who has spent the last three years helping clean up the Tulare hospital district on its board of directors. There is a crowded field of five candidates in District 5 where incumbent Greg Nunley, a real estate developer finishing his first term on the council, will face a host of challengers including Patrick Isherwood, Mario Flores, Courtney Olives, and Grady Dodson. Isherwood is an asset manager for nonprofit developer Self-Help Enterprises, Flores is the internship coordinator for the high school district, Oliver worked in Sacramento before moving home to be her mother’s full-time caregiver, and Dodson is a healthcare administrator.

Tulare completed its switch to district elections in 2014 following a wave of other cities across the state in efforts to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. Signed into law in 2002, the state law made it easier to sue cities using at-large elections, where the top two or three vote getters are elected to seats on the city council regardless of what part of town they lived in. The threat of lawsuits forced most cities to switch to by district elections and draw district boundaries to allow minority representation on the council.

District 1 encompasses the city’s western boundary, District 3 the southern end of the city limits east of the railroad tracks and District 5 is the eastern boundary. Voters unsure of which district they live in can look up their address at electedl.tularecounty.ca.gov/electiondatalookup. A map of the district boundaries can be found at tulare.ca.gov.

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