Challengers will face off against two longtime incumbents in the Kern County supervisor races for the 2nd and 3rd districts.
The challengers hope to unseat both 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner and 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard by taking advantage of a recent downturn in the county’s economy.
The boundaries for both districts have been redrawn, slightly changing the districts’ makeup.
Befitting the largest district in the county, the most candidates are running for the 2nd District chair of any of the supervisors’ races.
A wide range of candidates — from a school teacher, to a rodeo announcer, to a heavy equipment operator — have put their name on the ballot to take on incumbent Scrivner, who was first elected as the 2nd District supervisor in 2010.
After the district lines were redrawn this spring, the 2nd District acquired Boron, Taft, Maricopa and Frazier Park, taking it from being slightly Republican to strongly Republican.
Scrivner is running as an experienced politician who can adequately oversee the county’s finances, but still has work left to accomplish.
He said he will let the voters decide on the county’s sales tax measure, and he did not support either of the two county marijuana measures.
“There’s obviously work that’s left to be done in the county,” Scrivner said. “The second district supervisor, in addition to the other members of the Board of Supervisors, (needs to) continue on the four-year deficit mitigation plan.”
The county developed a $44.5 million structural deficit three years ago when the price of oil precipitously dropped. It developed a four-year mitigation plan, which has reduced the deficit to $17 million.
“I believe that I have served the second district faithfully for two terms and I’m excited about the opportunity to do so again for a third term,” he said. “We made a lot of progress when it comes to fiscal responsibility, closing the county’s fiscal deficit, we’re well on track to do so.”
Although the mitigation plan is going just about as good as the supervisors could expect, it has required county departments to either maintain their current service levels or experience cuts.
Some of Scrivner’s challengers have sought to take advantage of the difficult position the county found it in following the budget crunch.
Michael Biglay, a heavy equipment operator for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, is one of those candidates.
He claims the unincorporated areas of the county have not been well served by the current incumbent, and he hopes to change that should he win the election.
“I don’t think we’re represented in the unincorporated areas,” he said. “A lot of people have told me that. My idea is to run town halls, hold workshops in different areas to try to find out what the issues are and maybe resolve that in some of these communities.”
He said he wanted to bring more jobs to Kern County and increase public safety.
He said he did not support the sales tax, but was not actively lobbying against it. Although he does not support any of the marijuana measures on the ballot, he said the county should not ban marijuana dispensaries because the state has legalized it.
Dalmas Bunn, a ranch manager and rodeo announcer from eastern Kern County, is a somewhat reluctant candidate, running in part to increase public safety and mental health treatment.
He said he wants to try to bring a voice to some of the people in his district he says do not currently have one.
“I’m the guy that you can talk to,” he said. “Call me at midnight tonight because I’m awake, worrying about this, and we’ll talk.”
Bunn said he would probably end up supporting the sales tax measure because he hoped he would be elected to regulate where the money was spent.
He did not endorse either of the marijuana measures, but said he would respect the law of the land, despite some misgivings.
“I don’t think we have a system to deal with the outcome of just making a law legal,” he said. “I think we need enforcement. I think we need (to know) how it’s being handled through the courts. Until then, the illegal grower is getting wealthy.”
Rounding out the 4th District candidates is Whitney Weddell, a schoolteacher at Nueva Continuation High School and the only socially liberal candidate to seek the supervisors’ chair in the district.
“I have taught government 16 years at Nueva,” she said. “We spend a lot of times talking about in my class about being the change you want to see in the world.”
Although she said she had trouble with both ballot measures, she supports legal sales of marijuana within the county. She said she grudgingly supported the sales tax increase despite some concerns.
She said she hoped to bring a disparate group of people to the table in order to find solutions rather than be divisive.
“I bring a new perspective to government that we haven’t had in a long time,” she said. “I would like to be somebody who comes in and gets things done, and finds ways to bring people together so that we’re not constantly confrontational.”
For the 3rd District race, Supervisor Maggard faces Bakersfield city fire Capt. Jeff Heinle, who has been very critical of Maggard’s leadership.
Maggard was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2006, after serving on the Bakersfield City Council from 1998 to the start of his term as supervisor.
Despite his long tenure in public service, Maggard said he still has a fire in his gut for local politics.
“The prospect of making a difference in the lives of not only the hundred and fifty or so thousand people I represent, but the nearly eight or nine hundred thousand people in Kern County, that still completely turns me on, that I could improve the quality of those lives,” he said. “It’s terribly challenging, but I like a challenge and I am still passionate about doing this."
He said he will leave it up to the county voters for the sales tax, but he does not support either marijuana ballot measure, although he said it is an inevitability that cannabis will be sold throughout the state.
Funding the county’s public safety departments, such as the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department, were a priority, he said.
He still has a lot of work to do, he told The Californian. He hopes voters will give him the chance to do that work.
The one man in Maggard’s way is Heinle, who decided to run earlier this year after becoming fed up with the direction the county was moving.
“I am not wired to sit idly by when things are going wrong,” he said. “We’ve had the same board for ten years now and a decade of little or (no action) means that it’s time for a change.”
Although he has been a part of Boy Scouts and other nonprofit groups, he has not served in public office before.
He supports the marijuana initiative Measure J, because he believed it would bring the most revenue to the county.
Measure J would legalize medical dispensaries, but not recreational.
He said he was going to “hold his nose” and vote in favor of the sales tax because he believed it would be the only way the county could make its way out of the deficit.
All the county ballot measures, he said, are a result of the poor leadership on the Board of Supervisors.
“We’re not going to come out of this deficit unless the people actually step up to do it,” he said. “Our elected officials have failed to provide good, sound, fiscal responsibility to this community.”