Creating new jobs for the 128,300 people unemployed in the four counties of 16th Senate District is my No. 1 priority. During my 16 years as a small businessman, I've created over 2,000 jobs right here in our Valley. I've witnessed firsthand the burdens faced by small businesses in California. I will use my business experience to help get California working again.

For too long, the Sacramento politicians have left us behind. Our unemployment rate is 36 percent higher than the rest of the state. We've sent people to Sacramento who supposedly have a seat at the table with the ruling party, but resources that should help our Valley continue to be diverted to San Francisco, Los Angeles and other parts of the state. Equally bad, the power brokers in Sacramento are more interested in giving tax breaks to their wealthy corporate donors than helping the small businesses that provide two-thirds of the jobs in California.

I'm a farmer, not a politician. My solution to the problem of Valley job creation starts with guaranteeing a reliable and affordable supply of water to our economic engine -- agriculture. Let's build new water storage and devise a solution to the Bay Delta problem to keep the pumps pumping. I support constructing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tunnels so we provide a reliable source of clean water to our Valley, building water storage at Temperance Flat and keeping additional reservoirs in the upcoming state water bond.

The next step in my plan is to unlock the enormous natural resources beneath our feet in the 1,750 square mile Monterey Shale underground rock formation. The economic benefits are amazing and include the creation of between 512,000 and 2.8 million new jobs, an increase in personal income from $40.6 billion to $222.3 billion and additional state and local government revenues of $4.5 billion to $24.6 billion. Tapping this incredible resource will require hydraulic fracturing, a practice that has been used safely here for over 60 years. Instead of knee-jerk calls for moratoriums and bans, we should embrace this technology and work to make it safer than it already is.

The third part of my job creation plan is to improve our education system by regaining local control of our schools. When my family of educators and teachers gathers, the most common complaint is how the directives and mandates from Washington and Sacramento impair teachers' ability to educate their students. Local control of education funding is a necessity along with increasing our investment in career and technical education.

Last, I oppose the bullet train because it destroys local jobs, farms, homes and small businesses in its path. Equally important, there is no long-term funding source. I favor shutting down the mismanaged high-speed rail project and creating new jobs by spending those funds on water delivery construction, modernizing our schools and expanding neighborhood health care clinics.

A reliable and affordable supply of clean water, cheap and plentiful energy and an improved, locally controlled education system are my priorities to get the Valley and California working again.

Andy Vidak of Hanford, a cherry farmer, is the Republican candidate for the vacant 16th District seat in July 23's state senate special election.