Bakersfield · Politics

Bakersfield City Council hits speed bump on path to replace Rivera

Hopes of easily filling the seat of exiting Bakersfield City Councilman Willie Rivera have quickly become complicated.

A legal dispute between Kern County and the City of Bakersfield has emerged over the ability for Bakersfield to time a special election for Rivera’s remaining term (which expires in 2022) on the November ballot, The Bakersfield Californian reported.

A resolution to call for that election was intended to be up for vote during Wednesday’s Bakersfield City Council meeting, but was withdrawn following the delivery of an opinion from Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner.

Goldner, the Californian reports, alleged that calling for a special election to fill Rivera’s seat was “premature” while Rivera remained in office.

“If the City Council wishes to fulfill an elected office by either a special election or appointment, that office must actually be vacant,” Goldner wrote. “I respectfully urge you to comply with the law.”

Two candidates have emerged for Rivera’s seat – albeit one is more unconventional than the other.

Michael Bowers, public affairs director for Centric Health and a longtime legislative aide in the Golden Empire, put his name forward as a candidate but only as an appointee.

“I wouldn’t plan on running,” Bowers told the Californian. “It would be more of a service to help bring people together and not have a vacancy for almost eight months here. We can start working on real issues now instead of waiting for eight months or nine months.”

Bowers also wouldn’t run when the seat came up for election in 2022.

Rivera dismissed Bowers’ position.

“If Mr. Bowers feels strongly about serving Ward 1, he should make his case to the voters just like everyone else and let them decide.”

Meanwhile, MLK commUNITY Initiative founder Arleana Waller announced she intended to run in the special electon.

Three other Bakersfield City Council seats – Wards 2, 5, and 6 – are up for election in November.

Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.