In Tulare County, the 2020 census and redistricting leaves seven candidates in two districts vying for Senate and four candidates in two districts vying for State Assembly
TULARE COUNTY – Mail-in ballots are already in voters hands and polls are ready to open early on June 7. All that needs to happen now is to figure out which candidate to vote for.
In the last 10 years most residents in Tulare County had more or less the same candidates for the state Senate and Assembly, but after redistricting much of the county is broken into a handful of districts at both levels. That has left the door open for 11 candidates combined to serve at least part of the county’s residents.
Senate District 12
This year, there are only two candidates running for the senate seat in the newly redrawn District 12. Current District 16 Senator Shannon Grove is fighting to keep her seat against Susanne Gundy.
After redrawing the district, what is now District 12 covers a large area. The district encompasses from Clovis to right below Mammoth Lakes all the way down to include Ridgecrest, California City and Tehachapi. The district curves around Bakersfield to include Taft and back up to the outskirts of Porterville and around Lindsay. Additionally it reaches out to grab Exeter, half of Tulare and the majority of Visalia.
SEN. SHANNON GROVE (R-Bakersfield): Grove holds the current senate seat in District 16. She was elected to the Senate in November of 2018, and in 2019 she was elected Leader of the Senate Republican Caucus where she served for two years. She said her top priorities include being tough on crime, fighting for top notch education and a stable economy, “so working families can provide for themselves.”
Grove said after working in Sacramento each week, she has been meeting with constituents to hear what their concerns are within the district. The senator said she shares the same concerns on fundamental issues including, safety in neighborhoods, skyrocketing inflation and job security.
As Grove is running for another term, she said the valley needs a strong “fighter.” She claims to have fought for water access for agricultural producers, the oil industry, putting a stop to soft crime policies and quality education. Grove sees the importance of getting water to agriculture producers so they can continue to feed California. For the oil industry, she is a proponent for domestic production and the locally provided jobs that are attached. In regards to education, the Senator is “focused on knowledge and empowering parents to have a voice in their child’s education”
SUSANNE GUNDY (Democrat): Gundy, a Tulare County resident of over 45 years, said Shannon Grove has views that are “not in tune with what is good for the people who live here.” Gundy’s main priorities include discovering water alternatives, clean energy, public and community health, jail and prison reform and mental health. After the primary election, Gundy plans to go to all the communities within her district and have a listening tour, “So that as state senator, I could try to serve those needs through legislation and the budget process up in Sacramento.”
Gundy said she is not an expert in water, but knows there has to be a better solution. She said she wants to work toward expanding the use of different technologies to come up with better solutions to the drought. Gundy also thinks farmers should look into growing more drought friendly crops, as well as find ways to combine clean energy into their farming. “We have to wean ourselves off of oil and eventually natural gas,” Gundy said. Access to mental health services is an issue Gundy wants to work on in addition to prison and jail reform, an issue which she holds dear. Gundy supports expanding Medicare as she has seen first hand individuals around her community struggle to find affordable health care.
Gundy is not a career politician, and said she will be a “one term person.” She is a member at large in the Tulare County Democratic Central Committee and deals mostly with voter registration and education. She has run for Tulare County Board of Supervisors as well as Visalia City Council. As an animal lover, Gundy has four dogs and two cats.
Senate District 16
There are five candidates fighting for a senate seat in the newly drawn 16th district. Incumbent Melissa Hurtado currently sits in senate seat 14. Now that the districts have been reorganized, Bryan Osorio, Nicole Parra, David Shepard and Gregory Tatum are all fighting for this senate seat.
After redistricting, District 16 includes portions of Kings and Tulare County and even parts of Bakersfield. The district starts by wrapping around the northern portion of Visalia and curves back to include Hanford, Lemoore and Avenal. The district additionally grabs the main portion of Bakersfield and back up to include Delano, Porterville and the other half of Tulare.
BRYAN OSORIO (Democrat): Osorio considers himself a progressive Democrat who is for “uplifting working families.” In addition to affordable housing, water and clean energy, Osorio’s top priorities include the inequitable and strong economy, healthcare for all in California and education. Osorio said combating inflation requires introducing measures and finding creative ways, similar to the oil rebate the governor is proposing, raising the minimum wage or offering small business recovery grants. The young candidate from Delano wants to either co-sponsor or sponsor Assembly Bill 1400, which would usher in a new health care for all plan in California. Osorios additionally wants to find ways to provide better access to quality education, trade, vocational and university, for everyone, “it’s very apparent to me how important education is to many first generation families in the Central Valley.”
Osorio grew up in Delano and after graduating from college he moved back home to Delano. Osorio was elected to city council in 2018, where he is now serving his second year as Mayor. His message to constituents in his run for senate is “the future is now.” Osorio said he is running the only corporate free campaign in the district and has been a consistent voice in the community for immigrant justice groups, environmental justice groups, labor justice groups and others at the local level. He wants to run for senate so he can “continue amplifying those voices and continue amplifying those causes.”
NICOLE PARRA (Democrat): Parra was born and raised in Kern County. Having lived in all four counties within District 16, Parra said she knows the area better than any of her opponents. In regards to the drought, Parra has a plan to move forward and “change a lot of dynamics of what we’re looking at from water for our farmers and our rural communities.” Additionally she wants to ensure local law enforcement has the resources necessary in infrastructure, equipment, recruitment and retention while building a relationship with the community. Also, Parra wants to work to create a better relationship with the homeless community as well as affordable healthcare and housing.
Parra’s main goals are to look into the Governor’s May Revise for surface storage grants, work with water allocation plans under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) through the budget, make sure local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA) have the proper funds to complete projects, look into the Bay Delta board and work on an audit of proposition one passed in 2014.
Parra has 30 years of experience working at the federal state level, and thinks what her district needs is a real leader. She has been to visit all communities in her district and wants to hear what every constituent has to say. With her amount of experience combined with bipartisan support, Parra is confident in her campaign, “we don’t have the luxury to have a seat filler.”
DAVID SHEPARD (Republican): Shepard is a fourth generation central valley farmer. According to Shepard’s website, he is concerned about the direction of the state. Shepard’s website states that he wants to stand up for the American dream and stop politicians from destroying communities by cutting off water supply, releasing criminals onto the streets and playing politics with the education of children.
Shepard did not respond for an interview as of press time.
GREGORY TATUM (Republican): Tatum, a pastor in Bakersfield, approaches his run for assembly from a compassionate point of view. Working in aerospace, Tatum said he will bring 21st century ideas to the table. He wants to look into the allocation of funds from Proposition 1 to help with the water shortage, connect with neighboring states who have an interest in supplying California from reservoirs and deal with violence, “we must be [proactive] versus reactive.” As far as violence goes, Tatum says money needs to be allocated for preventative situations in order for the cycle of violence to be broken.
Tatum said he is the only veteran in this race which sets him apart from his opponents. Being married to his high school sweetheart for 44 years, Tatum says he will bring the family dynamic to his office if he wins.
Assembly District 33
This year in the newly drawn District 33, Ruben Macareno and Jose Sigala will be on the ballot next to incumbent Devon Mathis.
After redistricting, District 33 stretches from Reedley, Selma, Kingsburg, Woodlake and the northern portion of Visalia to include Hanford and Lemoore. It also includes the majority of Tulare and Porterville as well as Avenal and all areas North of Delano.
DEVON MATHIS (R-Visalia): Running in his fifth election as assemblyman, Mathis’s reiterates that his main goal is to “address the issues that are important to families.” Mathis said his job is not all about the talking heads of politics, he will work with whoever it takes to get a job done. In addition to the work he does in Sacramento, Mathis is proud of the work he does through his office to help his constituents with licensing, unemployment forms and as well as other additional issues his constituents might need help with, “Constituent Services has always been my number one, taking care of people and their family.”
Mathis is working on finding ways to receive funding for seismic compliance regulations in hospitals, something that has already affected several hospitals in Tulare County. Mathis is also working on finding a way to get Governor Gavin Newsom to recognize one time spending is not the answer. Additionally, he said he is working with others to get funding from Health and Human Services to assist with homelessness. “There’s so much more to being a representative than grandstanding on a couple of talking points,” Mathis said.
RUBEN MACARENO (Democrat): Beginning in third grade, Macareno said he has grown up in politics and has remained involved in different aspects throughout this life. Currently sitting on Farmersville City Council, Macareno said he was not satisfied with the candidates who were running for assembly in his district. The drought is a concern for the entire state, but Macareno said the fight for water for farmers is necessary. He said it is a balancing act between finding solutions for farmers while also cleaning up contaminated well water in the communities that struggle the most. Additionally, Macareno said thinking outside the box to bring in good paying jobs is important. A way to do that is to work on building a digital economy to allow individuals to have online business while still living in the area.
Having worked for the LA Times for twenty years, Macareno said he learned how important transparency is. He knows the importance of the voter and said he wouldn’t be where he is now if it wasn’t for the individuals who have helped him along the way. “I’ve always been the type of person to not just listen, not only be a mouthpiece, but also lay out the vision benefits of being engaged with constituents.”
JOSE SIGALA (Democrat): Sigala wants to ensure access to affordable, quality health care, create housing for working families, improve public education, increase jobs and opportunities, fight for small business and agriculture and support water for cities and farms, according to his campaign website.
Sigala was elected to Tulare City Council in 2016 where he has remained for six years, two of which he served as Mayor from 2018-2020. His campaign website states that he will, “provide the leadership, bring the change and deliver the results needed for our 33rd District Communities.” Sigala did not respond as of press time for an interview.