On Wednesday, Hurtado filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run in Congressional District 22. This allows her to start raising money.
Hurtado, D-Bakersfield, is now in the race with incumbent Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and former Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield.
The top two will advance from the March 5, 2024 primary to the November general election.
Expect Tens of Millions in Outside Spending
No matter who emerges on the Democratic side, expect lots of outside money to be spent. In the 2022 race where Valadao beat Salas by three points, more than $26 million in outside money was poured into the election.
The party election committees, NRCC and DCCC, spent $6 million and $5.5 million respectively, tracked by Open Secrets.
With an expected close congressional election, vulnerable California seats are no exception as the parties battle for control of the House. The GOP holds a 222-212 edge, with one seat vacant.
The decisive fight for the House “will run through California,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber, told the Associated Press earlier this month.
Meanwhile, North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson is bullish about the GOP gaining ground in a state known as a Democratic monolith.
“I think we can actually pick up seats in California,” said Hudson, chair of the NRCC.
District’s History of Close Races
Additionally, the district has a history of close races, with Republicans — meaning Valadao —often but not always defying a decided Democratic registration advantage.
Hurtado won election to the state Senate in 2018, knocking off Republican incumbent Andy Vidak. She won re-election in 2022 by an official 22 votes (reduced to 13 in an unsuccessful recount).
The NRCC has sent several emails this week alone, adding Hurtado to its attacks, along with Salas. You can expect the Democratic and GOP committees to hurl mud at the other side’s candidates from now until the election. Here’s a taste of what’s ahead:
“The costly, chaotic race to the left is on between two self-serving politicians who have harmed the Central Valley, Melissa Hurtado and Rudy Salas. A darling of extreme Sacramento special interests, Melissa Hurtado backed hiking the gas tax, tried to block water storage for the Valley, and worked against public safety,” NRCC spokesman Ben Petersen said in an email.
The DCCC did not respond to a request for comment.
A Salas email fundraising pitch on Wednesday mentioned Valadao and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, D-Bakersfield, but not Hurtado.
Fresno Scores Win in Fansler Lawsuit
A Fresno County judge has kicked out a lawsuit filed by a local restaurateur against the city of Fresno.
Dave Fansler sued the city and Councilman Miguel Arias, alleging that Arias purposely delayed approval of a mixed-use project near his Pismo’s restaurant in north Fresno. He alleged Arias used the delay as leverage against Fansler to settle another lawsuit against the city.
The city council eventually approved a rezone so Fansler could move forward with his project. What was initially in front of the city council in November 2022 was approved two months later.
Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan granted the city’s anti-SLAPP motion on July 18. She ruled that removing an item from an agenda is a legal act under the jurisdiction and free speech of a city council. She also ruled that Fansler did not provide admissible evidence on other claims made such as intentional and negligent interference.
Fansler could be on the hook for the city’s legal bills as well.
“I think it’s just a reflection of the good old boys club trying to flex their muscles by filing frivolous lawsuits and plainly lying to the courts about the roles of the legislators and land use policy matters that we have the legal authority and responsibility to process and consider,” Arias told Politics 101.
Arias remains a defendant in the lawsuit.
Another lawsuit filed by Fansler still remains. This dealt with the city shutting down his restaurants during the 2020 COVID lockdown. That case returns to court on Aug. 24.
“(We’re in) the process of trying to resolve both cases via settlement with the city,” Fansler’s attorney Warren Paboojian said.
Bill Would Punish Assemblymember DUIs
A bill proposed by Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Riverside, seeks to prevent his colleagues convicted of DUI from driving state-owned vehicles.
Earlier this month, Essayli introduced HR 51, which would bar an assemblymember from using the pool vehicle — cars provided to the Legislature to drive around Sacramento. A member charged with DUI would have the privileges suspended; a conviction would lead to a three-year ban on using state cars.
If the charges or dropped, or there is a not guilty verdict, the privilege would be restored.
“I am troubled by recent incidents of legislators and candidates drinking and driving. Public officials must be held to the highest standards given the public trust placed in us, which is why I’ve introduced House Resolution 51,” Essayli said in a news release.
Politics 101 asked Essayli’s office for a list of recent politicians or candidates with DUIs. The list included state Sen. Dave Min, who was arrested for DUI in May. But, the language of HR 51 wouldn’t affect him, since he’s not in the Assembly (or convicted yet).
Essayli’s office also mentioned former Kingsburg councilwoman Jewel Hurtado, arrested in July 2021. She eventually took a plea deal.
Hurtado did not run for re-election in 2022 and has since moved to Fresno. There is no indication she plans to run for the Assembly.
Current Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, has a 1999 DUI citation, but would not be affected by HR 51.
The resolution does have the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The resolution does not have a hearing date.
Costa Bill Protects US Ag
A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, that would prohibit “foreign adversaries from purchasing or controlling U.S. agricultural land and businesses,” made it into a Senate bill.
The “Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act” (PASS Act) was approved as an amendment to a Senate military funding bill on Tuesday. The bipartisan bill would allow the USDA to review foreign acquisition of farmland, and ban China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from purchasing U.S. soil.
“Our foreign adversaries, specifically Communist China, are purchasing U.S. agricultural land to undermine our food security and gain access to our sensitive military installations,” a Costa news release said.
The amendment passed 91-7. California’s Democratic senators split — Alex Padilla voted no; Dianne Feinstein voted yes. The bill itself still needs passage from the Senate.
“Food is a national security issue, and we need to take steps to protect American farmland. The PASS Act will safeguard our food supply chain and ensure American agriculture is operated by American businesses,” Costa said.
City of Fresno Has New Department, New Director
The city of Fresno has a new department and new a new department director.
Funded in the budget and officially created by the city council last month, the Capital Projects Department will oversee city building efforts. Previously, this responsibility was scattered throughout several departments.
The city hired from within for the department’s first director in Randall Morrison. He was the assistant public works director prior to his promotion and has worked for the city since 2004.
“During his rise through the ranks at the City of Fresno, Randall has shown an exceptional ability to manage large, complex projects with efficiency and leadership – which is exactly what we need at the helm of this department,” City Manager Georgeanne White said in a news release.
Mayor Jerry Dyer said Morrison will manage projects with an infusion of $250 million in the state for downtown projects, and $80 million for work at the Blackstone/McKinley intersection.
“I am truly blessed and honored to accept the position as the Capital Projects Director,” Morrison said. “It is an extraordinary time to serve this city and I am excited to work alongside the Capital Projects team that will forever change Fresno through the delivery of major infrastructure projects.”