Rudy Salas for 32nd AD
In Rudy Salas and Justin Mendes, voters in California’s 32nd Assembly District have two candidates with more closely aligned goals and policy priorities than either would probably like to admit.
Salas, the Democratic incumbent, has walked the line that every valley Democrat must walk: Respect the needs and views of conservative constituents as much as practicable without offending — too much — the party leadership in Sacramento. Over the course of his six years in office, Salas has tried admirably but paid a price by offending both at one time or another.
Most notoriously, if we may characterize it that way, he voted against the gas tax, Senate Bill 1, a move that angered the Democratic leadership. As a result, he was removed from his chairmanship of the committee that oversees professional licensing across the state. He reasoned that people in the Central Valley drive too far too often and nothing in the proposal addressed the issue. That tax, ultimately approved by the Legislature, is now the subject of a repeal effort by way of Proposition 6.
Valley fever is a huge issue in the Central Valley, and Salas has been proactive in fighting it, introducing several bills targeting better treatment and perhaps a cure. He led the charge to secure $8 million in funding to beat the disease.
Mendes, a Hanford City Council member who has served as the mayor of Hanford and was a top aide to Congressman David Valadao, has made an issue out of an unsatisfactory phone call to an allegedly dismissive Salas staffer about a registered sex offender living next door to his children’s daycare provider. Salas subsequently introduced a bill addressing the proximity to day care issue.
Mendes has criticized Salas’ support of the cap-and-trade bill and his vote for the sanctuary state law. But both agree, to a substantial degree, on matters like water quality and reliability, education and business regulation.
Salas’ track record and his sensitivity to both his Latino constituents and conservative base make him the right choice for the 32nd District.
Vince Fong for 34th AD
In the 34th Assembly District race, Republican incumbent Vince Fong faces a challenge from Democrat Nick Nicita, an audio engineer.
Fong knows the business of government well, having worked for former Rep. Bill Thomas as a UCLA freshman intern, and, from 2006 until Fong’s election to the Assembly in 2016, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s district director.
In his two years in office, Fong has demonstrated loyalty to both his party and Kern County. Like Salas, he has introduced and backed bills seeking funds for valley fever research. He also is an advocate on rolling back restrictions that threaten to dry up farms in the Central Valley. His plan is to have more money allocated to build new state reservoirs to store water.
Fong has also crusaded against tax hikes of all shapes and sizes, which he believes are pushing Californians out of the state.
Nicita, who has never held elective office, is not ready for this step, but he deserves high praise from Democrats, Republicans and everyone else reading these words. He not only kicked a years-long addiction to heroin, he emerged a changed man, ready and eager to serve his community. Somewhere, at some level, he deserves that chance — just not this one now.
Fong is the best choice for the 34th Assembly District seat.