Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle, a former Marine who worked as a field representative for former Hanford Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, plans to run for the state Senate seat held by Hanford cherry farmer Andy Vidak.
Confirming his candidacy in a phone interview Friday, Valle joins fellow Democrat Luis Chavez, a Fresno Unified School District trustee, in contesting the seat vacated in February by former Shafter Democrat Michael Rubio, who left the Senate to take a government affairs job with Chevron.
The 16th District Vidak represents will essentially become the 14th District as a result of redistricting. A primary election this spring will be followed by a second election in the fall.
Vidak also said through a campaign consultant late Friday that he will run for re-election.
Valle said he decided to run for the seat when Vidak, a Republican, defeated Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez in a high-profile special election in July. Perez has said she will not run for the Senate this year.
While Perez won a majority of votes cast in Kern and Fresno counties, Vidak carried Kings County by a wide margin. Valle said he hopes to cut into Vidak's support in Kings to give the area a stronger voice in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
"As a Democrat, I feel that I'll be able to serve the people on the simple fact that I can actually pass legislation. Andy Vidak is not in a position to do that right now," he said.
Valle, a 43-year-old Corcoran native and father of two, said he has spent the last few months meeting with supporters in Kern and elsewhere.
After serving as a field representative for Parra for six years, he was elected in 2008 to a four-year term representing District 2 on the Kings County Board of Supervisors. He was re-elected in 2012.
A vocal opponent of California high-speed rail, Valle said he has advocated statewide on behalf of the Central Valley as a member of the Latino Water Coalition.
Chavez, a south Fresno resident with a background in education and health care, announced his candidacy in November. He said Friday that many of the district's biggest issues -- public safety and economic development among them -- tend to be nonpartisan.
He complimented Valle on the decision to run for office, saying "Anyone who's willing to put themselves out like that for public scrutiny needs to be commended."
The 14th District includes parts of Kern, Kings, Tulare and Fresno County. In Kern it includes the communities of Arvin, Lamont, Delano, McFarland, Wasco, Shafter and parts of Bakersfield.