Much of Sacramento is unhappy with Assemblyman Rudy Salas right now.
But back home in Kern County, the Democrat is getting a lot of love for his vote against SB 1, a transportation tax measure that passed the state Legislature on April 6.
Social media erupted with support for Salas after he was stripped of his chairmanship of the powerful Business and Professions Committee by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon Monday,
A lot of that support came from Republicans.
One person tweeted a diagram of a backbone in response to Salas’ own tweet about the committee loss.
Others thanked him for not stabbing his constituents in the back.
Some Republicans even said they might vote for him – even though they never vote for Democrats.
Other Kern County residents even shot off notes of support for Salas to Rendon’s office.
Russell Johnson, a Republican and former Bakersfield city councilman, said Salas made a principled move – keeping a promise not to vote for a tax without a vote of the people – but also a good political move.
“He represented his district well. And he stuck with his words,” Johnson said. “Rudy’s going to be rewarded for the good vote he made.”
Salas represents the 32nd Assembly District, where Democrats hold a 22.5 percentage point advantage over Republicans in voter registration.
Still, the valley’s conservative nature and weaker voting trends among Democrats can make Salas’ seat competitive.
Salas didn’t face a serious challenge for his seat in November. He won handily. But contests for the post he holds have been heated and gone down to the wire in previous election cycles.
And his district lies right next to the deeply red territory of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield – the House majority leader.
“He’s not going to get a challenger from the left in Kern County – he’s going to get a challenge from the right,” Johnson said of Salas.
This month’s anti-tax vote definitely helps Salas protect his seat, he said. Even local radio talk-show hosts who hate Salas were cheering his vote on SB 1, Johnson said.
And Democrats who hate new taxes, he said, may be moved to vote against those who passed the new tax.
“The fallout from this tax increase is going to be far more severe than the politicians in Sacramento are expecting,” Johnson said. “You’re going to be seeing people lose their seats because of their votes.”
But not all of the social media reaction to Salas' vote were positive Tuesday.
Cheryl Tierce, an active Kern County Democrat, wanted more from Salas than a vote that followed campaign promises. Sometimes leaders have to make the right choice on tough issues despite what they’ve said before, she said.
“He got elected to legislate,” Tierce said.
Still, even for Democrats, the road tax was a hard call.
“I drive out on these county roads all the time,” she said.
The roads are failing.
At the same time, some people worried that the tax would be a terrible burden for low-income families, Tierce said.
Johnson said Salas’ vote will help him hold the 32nd Assembly District seat until he terms out in 2024, though strong Republican candidates in the South Valley’s state Senate seats would preclude him from moving into a higher office.
But some on social media questioned why Salas didn’t try to get some special transportation funding for Kern and Kings counties in exchange for a yes vote.
And there could be complications for the county if the legislature still harbors some animosity toward Salas’ district.
Kern County Public Works Director Craig Pope said Kern County will still see its share of money from SB 1.
“The funding for SB1 is by formula,” he said. "The formula has components based on how many maintained miles you have and how many registered vehicles you have in your area. This money falls into the non-discretionary category.”
But Kern County does ask for money from other pools of transportation cash. If there is blowback it could come there, Pope said.
“There are many pots of money we are constantly applying for that are more discretionary," he said. "Also, when you are looking for approval on your projects, this tends to be discretionary by the state. So life can be made much harder for us."