The Sun Voter Guide

South Valley becomes Senate battleground between Hurtado, Shepard

Despite the double digit Democratic lead in the area, the 16th Senate District race is not expected to be a cakewalk for first-term Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger). 

One cause of hope for Republican David Shepard, a farmer from Porterville, is that Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) won his Congressional district, which shares significant overlap with the newly-drawn Senate district and is also heavily Democrat. 

Shepard also took the primary by about 14 points, though Hurtado had support siphoned by fellow Democrat, former Asm. Nicole Parra (D–Bakersfield). 

The race is your typical Republican-Democrat tilt, with both sides backed by their respective parties and major elected representatives. 

Shepard has positioned himself as a conservative, calling Hurtado soft on crime and speaking out on various issues ranging from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ban on gas-powered cars in 2035 to prioritizing the Valley over siding with Southern California and Bay Area liberals. 

But Hurtado contends that she is a moderate and has generally acted right of her progressive colleagues on the left. 

One major factor in the race that came as a blow to Hurtado’s campaign is the support of local labor. 

Shepard secured the endorsement of the Kern, Inyo and Mono Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, a major organization that typically supports Democrats. 

But as is common in California elections, Hurtado leads the fundraising numbers by a wide margin due to the support of the Democratic party. 

Hurtado boasts $3,886,276 in total fundraising and has over $500,000 still on hand. 

Shepard has brought in nearly $700,000 to his campaign but only has $30,811 left to spend. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at