Fingers pointed to 4th District supervisor candidate Jose Gonzalez in the day after an election that saw incumbent David Couch beat two Latino candidates in a 68 percent Latino-majority district.

Gonzalez earned 18 percent of the vote in the race, almost certainly taking a significant portion of votes away from Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo, who received 34 percent of votes compared to Couch’s 48 percent.

Although it’s not possible to know how the race would have turned out if Gonzalez had not run, if every person who voted for Gonzalez instead cast their vote for Vallejo, Vallejo would have won the election with 52.35 percent of the vote.

“Gonzalez was able to peel enough votes away to give Couch the win unfortunately,” Vallejo said in a statement on Facebook. “I’m optimistic that with a traditional election process of a primary election, followed by a general election, that the outcome would have been different.”

Gonzalez, president for the Lamont Chamber of Commerce, entered into the race after Vallejo had already announced her candidacy.

His entrance immediately sparked concerns that he would dilute the Latino vote in the 4th District, allowing Couch to win. Those concerns appear to have played out Tuesday night.

“He spoiled it, absolutely,” Cal State Bakersfield political science professor Mark Martinez said of Gonzalez.

Martinez participated in a nominating process with the explicit intention of ensuring only one Latino candidate made it on the ballot in November.

At an April meeting, 21 Democratic and Latino leaders met to whittle down a handful of candidates who had expressed interest in running for 4th District supervisor to one.

Vallejo emerged as the committee’s choice, and the other potential candidates, which included activist Jose Aguirre, Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola, Donny Munoz and Dolores Huerta's son Emilio Huerta, agreed to drop out.

Gonzalez entered the race several months after the meeting, saying he hoped the community would decide who to elect for supervisor, not the nominating committee.

“Unfortunately Jose Gonzalez didn’t understand the math or was politically naïve,” Martinez said. “I think a lot of people are frustrated and disappointed, especially among progressives and other Democrats.”

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Gonzalez expressed no regret about his decision to run, and pushed back against the idea that he had cost Vallejo the election.

“This is a democracy. Anybody has the opportunity to run whenever they feel like it,” he said. “We had a lot of community members that were disappointed with the meeting back in April. That was actually what divided the vote and divided the community.”

He has not ruled out running for the seat again when it is up for reelection in two years.

But until then, the Latino-majority district will be led by Couch, and Latinos will continue to be vastly outnumbered on the Board of Supervisors, a disparity a successful lawsuit against the county by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund sought to address.

The lawsuit forced supervisors to redraw the district's lines earlier this year to better reflect the demographics of Kern County. As a result, the 4th District switched from being mostly white and Republican to mostly Latino and Democrat.

But until 2020, Couch will have the district seat. That may not be so bad, according to Martinez, who noted that Couch had committed himself to closely serving the residents of the 4th District. 

“If Couch is genuine, more power to him,” he said. “(The 4th District supervisor doesn’t) have to be Latino. You could be Punjabi, you could be African-American. It’s about whether you’re going to do the work to improve the lives of the people in the 4th District.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415 or smorgen@bakersfield.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(4) comments

Bodysnatcher

How much money was wasted backing a losing candidate KLEA? Perhaps the board should be more open and transparent to its members? Thanks for wasting the money.

Ciscojav

Correction: CSUB Poly Sci Prof Mark Martinez said that Jose votes would not have necessarily gone to Grace on the morning of 11/07 not this morning, 11/08

Ciscojav

Here's my analysis; if I am wrong I welcomed being corrected:

Jose Gonzalez got 18%, Vallejo got 34% & got Couch got 48%. Latinos make up 68% of District 4. Couch, so hypothetically, got the remainder of the District 4 Non-Latino population which is 32%. With the combined votes cast for Vallejo & Gonzalez, the total is 52% out of the 68% Latino population in District 4 m. So, hypothetically, 16% of Latinos voted for Couch. You add the 32% of Non-Latino plus the 16% of out of the 68% TOTAL Latino District 4 population who, hypothetically, voted for Couch, that makes 48%. It's only by coincidence that Couch actually won by that % last night. But I think CSUB Poly Sci Professor Mark Martinez made an interesting statement KGET on 11/07 in the morning. I think he knows that Gonzalez initially was calculated to "take" only 10% of the votes "from Vallejo" as I also recall being reported from a couple of internal polling scenarios. So that means that Jose got 8% more than expected so that means 8% would have gone to Couch. You add 8% to 48% in a race just between Couch & Vallejo and Couch wins by getting 56% of the total District 4 population. The 8% of the Latino votes would never have gone to Vallejo in a two candidate race between herself and Couch. I think that's why Poly Sci Mark Martinez said this morning on KGET that Jose votes would not have necessarily gone to Grace. By Jose getting 8% more that the 10% he was expected, it shows Vallejo had a higher negative than expected in a two candidate race between herself and Couch.

Ciscojav

After March 30, 2018, when a federal judge ordered Kern County to draw new district lines and have an election for the NEW Kern County District 4, there was local speculation on who would run against the current incumbent, David Couch.

On April 12, 2018; the current Mayor of Delano, Grace Vallejo, was chosen by a group of 21 self imposed "oligarchy" as their candidate for the NEW Kern County District 4. Grace Vallejo was in a very "un-democratic" and "non-transparent" fashion by this "oligarchy" of predominantly Latino "stakeholders", in an "invitation only" meeting in a private Bill Lee's restaurant. This "oligarchy" took it upon themselves to select a candidate to run for the NEW Kern County District 4 Board of Supervisor seat. It has been reported that this meeting was set-up by Dean Florez, the former State Senator from Kern County and a former candidate for Lt Governor who can no longer run for public office stemming from campaign finance violations in 2013. Florez still has many political connections as a lobbyist and is now a paid consultant to the city of Delano. Florez is currently charging the city a monthly $4,000 "retainer fee" which was supported by Mayor Vallejo but the citizens of the Delano have been demanding for some time to know what Florez has accomplished for the city. This is the connection between Florez and Vallejo. It was reported that Dean Florez ran the meeting that selected Grace Vallejo. It has been reported that there were "back rooms deals" before and after this meeting. It was reported that at the meeting there was intimidations and threats of political "exile" via future political money if those present didn't go along. To add greater insult to any sense of democracy, these "stakeholders" felt it was unnecessary to meet in a District 4 community and they felt it was unnecessary to have input from community members in District 4.

So this begs the question: Why was the MALDEF lawsuit filed against Kern County? Because there was considered efforts by those in power to minimize Latino representation and minimize the Latino voice in Kern County government. But now it was "OK" for this self imposed "oligarchy" to purposely keep community representation out of the process that was set up to pick a candidate. When District 4 community activist initial first thoughts when they heard of this "oligarchy" selecting a candidate was; "What would Martin Luther King do? What would Malcolm X do? What would Cesar Chavez do?" Would these civil rights leaders stand for this? No, because they could never accept that a "back-room politician" selected by an "oligarchy" to become a champion for the historical underrepresented communities of color in the NEW Kern County District 4.

Jose Gonzalez is a Naturalized Citizen born in Mexico with a degree in Business Administration. Currently he is the Regional Manager for Self-Help Credit Union and has been very involved in the community of Lamont for almost two decades and has been instrumental in bringing millions of federal and state grant dollars for the Lamont community for sidewalks, parks, lights and affordable housing. Jose stepped up to improve conditions when local government officials failed to do so. He financed his campaign by himself and by public donations. Vallejo campaign and supporters were not able to come up with any negative character flaws to attack him so they they made up lies because Vallejo was threatened by this only true "grassroots" campaign for the NEW Kern County District 4.

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