Connie Conway of Visalia is changing political course.
She said Tuesday morning that she is dropping out of the race for California’s 16th Senate District seat and making a run for the California Board of Equalization.
This month the California Legislature that Conway used to serve in passed legislation that would gut the powers of the state tax agency as it struggles under a corruption investigation.
And Conway is angry.
“I became increasingly incensed with the legislature and this latest grab,” she said.
She said the legislature has created two new government agencies and turned the taxing power over to state bureaucrats.
“If anybody thinks taxpayers are going to get better representation — I’d argue with them. And I am going to argue with them as I run for this seat,” Conway said. “It just makes me want to get out and fight.”
Her decision was helped, she said, by supporters and friends urging her to run for the Board of Equalization.
On Friday Conway told The Californian that she still planned to run for the 16th Senate District.
But that changed over the weekend.
On the Board of Equalization, Conway said, she can represent 9 million taxpaying citizens and fight to fix the board from inside.
Conway is a veteran Visalia politician and served as the Republican minority leader in the California Assembly before leaving office in 2014 after reaching the end of her term limit in the state’s lower legislative house.
She had long pondered a run for the 16th Senate District and had targeted 2018, when state Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, will be termed of office.
But former Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, was also eyeing the seat.
Grove – whose time in the Assembly ran out last year – enjoys a dramatic advantage over any candidate from Tulare County.
Roughly 65 percent of all the registered voters in the 16th District live in Grove’s Kern County home turf.
Voters tend to vote for the hometown candidate.
And observers say that advantage was probably large enough to hand Grove a win over Conway.
Sacramento Republican political consultant Steve Davey, principal at Golden West Strategies, told The Californian for a story that ran over the weekend that Grove had the race in the bag.
And former state Sen. Roy Ashburn, who once represented a district that covered much of the very same ground as the 16th District, said Conway faced an uphill battle because she was known and respected in Tulare County but wasn’t a household name in Kern County.
Conway also had campaign finance reports that showed a much smaller war chest than Grove.