By Tony Quinn, California Political Review
What’s wrong with those voters in Fresno and Bakersfield? Don’t they know the party bosses pick the candidates and their only job is to troop to the polls and vote for them?
Apparently not, since the Democrats just blew a safe Democratic Senate seat in a Central Valley special election in which the bosses achieved the amazing contortion of seizing defeat out of the jaws of almost certain victory.Last February, popular Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio (D Bakersfield) resigned this Bakersfield-Fresno area Senate seat to take a job with Chevron. The district was overwhelmingly Democratic; President Obama handily carried it in 2008 and 2012, as did Gov. Brown and Sens. Feinstein and Boxer. Rubio got 61 percent in his 2010 election.
But the vacancy left the Democrats with two problems: no obvious candidate on their side and a potentially strong Republican candidate, a Hanford cherry grower Andy Vidak, who had run for congress in an overlapping district in 2010. After the two overlapping Democratic Assembly members decided not to run, party leaders in Sacramento faced a dilemma. The leading Democrat was one Fran Florez, mother of the former Senator for this district, but she had lost a couple of races for the Assembly.
In a classic case of pride goeth before the fall, the Sacramento party bosses forced Florez from the race, and decided to put their muscle behind a first term Bakersfield Supervisor named Leticia Perez. Down into the district came a Democratic campaign team followed by boatloads of Democratic money. That should have settled the matter, or so they thought, but it did not.
It seems that no one in the district knew who Leticia Perez was, not surprising since her supervisorial district is way at the southern end in Bakersfield and most of the population is to the north in Fresno, Kings and Tulare. In the May primary, Perez did manage to pull 43 percent of the vote, and Vidak nearly won the seat outright with 49.8 percent. He ran about 20 points ahead of GOP registration and she ran eight points behind Democratic registration.
But still there was every reason to believe that Perez would win in the end; the runoff featured just one Democrat and one Republican in a hugely Democratic district, and the Democratic leadership and their union allies opened their wallets even more to assure a Democratic victory.
But then onto the scene came the California Realtors Association. It seems that the Realtors and the Democratic Senate leadership are in a capital tussle over a piece of legislation, and in a move reminiscent of the Corleone family, the Realtors decided to make a point. Into the district rolled an $840,000 Realtor independent expenditure complete with TV ads, direct mail, precinct walkers and the other appendages of a full campaign against Perez and for Vidak. This money more than equaled Democratic independent expenditures in favor of Perez, and she ended up in the middle of someone else’s political brawl.
Source: California Political Review