Highlight · Politics

It’s Election Day. Here are the big questions in the Valley’s biggest races.

The California Primary, and Super Tuesday, have finally arrived. The endless commercials and flood of mailers will cease, if only for a moment, when polls close at 8 p.m. tonight.

While the Democratic presidential contest has seen a major shakeup days before Super Tuesday, we took a look at the looming questions facing the San Joaquin Valley that may, or may not, be decided Tuesday night.

Mayor of Fresno

With Fresno Mayor Lee Brand becoming the city’s first strong mayor to forego running for re-election, there are eight candidates seeking to replace him.

Two candidates, former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz, serve as the top contenders for the job. The race has attracted big spending on the part of Dyer, the Fresno Chamber of Commerce and its allies supporting Dyer, and an outside group opposing Dyer’s candidacy led by former State Asm. Juan Arambula (D–Fresno) and his wife, Amy.

The Big Question: Do either Dyer or Janz claim the Mayorship outright in March by capturing 50 percent plus one vote on Tuesday?

Fresno City Council · District 4

The swing seat on the Fresno City Council, currently occupied by termed-out Councilman Paul Caprioglio, spans east-central and encompasses Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall, Fresno State, and Fresno-Yosemite International Airport.

The race has its own interesting dynamic, featuring two young politicos: community relations director Nathan Alonzo and City Council assistant Tyler Maxwell.

The two young guns have plunged into a nasty battle to replace Caprioglio in what could determine whether Fresno’s insurgent liberal bloc will gain a veto-proof majority.

The Big Question: With only two candidates in the field, it’s simple – who wins?

Tulare County Supervisor · District 1

After a narrow victory in 2016, first-term Supervisor Kuyler Crocker faces a challenge from two candidates – retired Sheriff’s Captain Larry Micari and former Exeter Mayor Robyn Stearns.

Micari has worked to draw high-profile support toward his camp, ultimately securing the backing of Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and one of Crocker’s own colleagues, Supervisor Pete Vander Poel.

The Big Question: Can Crocker repel the backing behind two well-established challengers and hang onto his seat?

Kern County Supervisor · District 4

It’s the second time in two years that northern Kern County residents have cast ballots to determine who will represent them on the Board of Supervisors.

The reason? A two-year-long Federal court battle over the district lines for the Board that gave way to the creation of a to create a second Latino-majority district.

After lines were redrawn, incumbent David Couch was forced to run in 2018 under the new lines, ultimately surviving a concerted challenge by then-Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo due to a third Latino candidate in the race.

Couch is running for a full-term under the new lines, squaring off against Emilio Huerta, son of UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta.

Couch has seized on a key issue from Huerta’s 2016 run for Congress: his residency. Huerta is alleged to live outside of the Supervisorial district. The labor lawyer has denied the claims.

The Big Question: Will Couch survive for the second time in two years despite a large, concerted effort by Kern County’s Latino leaders to coalesce around a single Latino candidate?

16th Congressional District

Rep. Jim Costa hasn’t faced a Democrat since he defeated Lisa Quigley in the 2004 primary en route to winning his Congressional seat.

16 years later, Costa faces not one but two Democrats: Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria and Merced native Kim Williams.

Soria has waged a bid drawing inspiration from a crop of progressive insurgents that claimed victories in Congressional elections in 2018, headlined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.).

Costa hasn’t taken Soria’s challenge lying down. The eight-term Congressman launched a barrage of sharp ads that repeatedly used Soria’s words against her – including a ringing endorsement she issued for Costa an election or two ago.

Fresno County’s New Voting System

Fresno County is the latest Valley county to roll out a new voting system under California’s Voters Choice Act.

The most notable change for voters? Everyone receives a vote-by-mail ballot, regardless of whether they asked for one.

The new system also eliminates the old polling places scattered across the county, replacing them with a smattering of major vote centers that carry the 800 different ballot varieties printed for voters in the county.

Two Fresno County groups have taken key advantage of the new voting system as a method to boost turnout.

Valley Forward spent much of 2019 introducing voters to the intricacies of the new system.

Meanwhile, WeVoteUSA has announced it was partnering with PowerTalk 96.7 to operate a secure voter drop-off drive on Tuesday in the parking lot of LifeStyle Furniture, located on the southeast corner of Shaw and Blackstone avenues in Fresno.

The Big Question: Will Fresno County certify its elections quicker than it did in years past?

The San Joaquin Valley Sun
Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.