Ruth Musser Lopez

Democrat Ruth Musser-Lopez, 16th Senate District candidate.

Former state Assemblywoman Shannon Grove is the heavy favorite in the race for the state's 16th Senate District seat, with name recognition and legislative experience that could help her coast to victory.

But her opponent, Ruth Musser-Lopez of Needles, isn't giving up without a fight. She knows the odds are against her, but said she doesn't think Grove accomplished anything as an assemblywoman and believes she can do better.

"I just think her ideas are horrible," Musser-Lopez said.

Grove is anti-abortion; Musser-Lopez supports abortion rights. Grove is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights as defined by most civilian gun owners; Musser-Lopez advocates for stricter controls of gun ownership and possession.

And Musser-Lopez believes Grove is out of touch with the average working person. Growing up on a dairy farm with eight siblings, Musser-Lopez said, she knows firsthand the struggles that growers and other business owners face. 

One of the reasons she entered the race is the state of health care in the 16th District.

Musser-Lopez said Kern has fewer doctors per capita than Marin County and neighboring coastal counties, and if elected she'd work to bring in more doctors and publicly held hospitals. She also supports bringing a medical school to Cal State Bakersfield. 

She also spoke of the need to deliver clean drinking water to everyone in the valley and providing public schools with necessary supplies they've lacked.

Grove, born in Bakersfield, was raised by a single mother in Arvin, an experience that left her with a determination to face hard work head-on and set her goals high.

"My mom taught me that if you're not going to do it, no one else will," Grove said.

Describing herself as a "just cause" person, she said she wants to be a representative of the people and do what's best for the district.

A U.S. Army veteran who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Grove said her experience in the armed forces is something she'd never trade in. 

In 2011, she became the first female veteran elected to the Assembly, and was re-elected twice. She said during her time in the Assembly, she focused on solving problems for constituents such as helping developers and builders obtain building permits and assisting district residents in navigating governmental red tape.

One of her top priorities now is her fight against PAGA, the Private Attorney General Act, which authorizes aggrieved employees to file lawsuits to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves or other employees for Labor Code violations. She said the act opens the door to frivolous litigation that can cost companies across the state. 

"It's modern-day extortion," Grove said. 

Grove said the development of new water storage and conveyance systems also is a priority.

The seat is being vacated by the termed-out Republican incumbent, Jean Fuller of Bakersfield.

The 16th District is the largest Senate district in California in terms of geographic size. It covers the southeastern San Joaquin Valley and a huge swath of the Mojave Desert and includes the cities of Ridgecrest, Taft, Tehachapi, Barstow, Tulare, Visalia and a substantial portion of Bakersfield.

Jason Kotowski can be reached at 661-395-7491. Follow him on Twitter: @tbcbreakingnews.

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