Politics

Sources: Hurtado set to move into open South Valley Senate seat

The titanic clash of two of the Valley’s Democratic lawmakers is, apparently, off.

First-term California State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger) is on-the-move to the open 16th Senate District, a district anchored in southern Tulare, Kings and Kern counties, multiple Democratic sources tell The Sun.

Hurtado, a native of Sanger, was set for a showdown with one of her colleagues, Sen. Anna Caballero (D–Salinas) in the newly-drawn 14th Senate District.

The 14th encompassed Hurtado’s hometown and a considerable portion of her territory in her current district.

Redistricting saw the merger of districts along the Central Coast, pushing Caballero either into the San Joaquin Valley or early retirement.

From the outset, Hurtado was indignant that she wouldn’t move from her home seat.

In the ensuing weeks since new district lines were finalized by California’s citizen redistricting commission, Caballero has consolidated support from the state’s powerful union interests along with a roster of local and state elected officials.

Hurtado, for her part, was likely to receive hefty support from California’s business and energy sectors in anticipation for a highly-pitched proxy war between labor and business.

The move into the 16th Senate District comes with its own complications and completely upends the race for the seat.

Currently, four candidates – three Democrats and one Republican – are vying for the top two spots in the June Primary.

Among them: former Asm. Nicole Parra (D–Bakersfield), Kern County labor leader Imelda Ceja (D–Bakersfield), attorney Rob Fuentes (D–Porterville), and farmer David Shepard (R–Porterville).

For her part, Hurtado closed out 2021 with $514,033 on-hand for a 2022 campaign.

Paired with incumbency and the built-in ability to raise more cash out of Sacramento, the first-term Sanger Senator is likely to see a few Democrats in the field back away.

As it stands, California Democratic delegates did not make a pre-endorsement for the 16th Senate district, giving Hurtado a clear path to claim it during the party’s March convention in Los Angeles.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.