The candidates running for Kern County’s 4th Supervisorial District, arguably Kern County’s hottest race, shared their issue priorities with 17 News Monday. Incumbent David Couch faces challenges from Delano Mayor, Grace Vallejo, and Lamont Chamber of Commerce Pres. Jose Gonzalez.
The seat was not supposed to be up for another two years, but a federal judge ruled the old district map violated the U.S. Voting rights act, ruling the lines diluted the Latino vote. He ordered the district re-drawn and a special election this Nov.
The new district extends as far north as Delano and as far south as Arvin. Buttonwillow and parts of Bakersfield are also in the new district.
“I’m going to do in this new district exactly what I did in the old district,” said Supervisor Couch, who has served as fourth district supervisor for one and a half terms. “We worked hard, we addressed people’s issues.”
Couch was born and raised in Bakersfield and is an alumnus of Bakersfield High School. He spent 25 years in the stock brokerage business, and served on the Bakersfield City Council for 14 years before his election to the Board of Supervisors in 2012. Fiscal responsibility is among his top priorities.
“We’ve had some real challenges,” he said. “Right after I took office, we had the price of oil fall. That left the county with a massive structural deficit – 70 something $million. The board was very responsible in the way we acted. We adopted a four year financial plan to work our way out of that budget.”
Couch said his other priorities are reflected in the budget.
“We clearly prioritize public safety. That is the lion’s share of our budget. But we try to balance that by addressing other community concerns, whether it’s new roads, maintaining roads, filling pot holes.”
Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo was raised by migrant farm workers. She’s lived in Delano since she was a little girl, and her children, grandchildren, and great grand children live there today.
“I’ve always had a passion to help people,” Vallejo said. “I was a farm worker. I live in a small community. I recognize the needs of small communities. I’ve been out to the ones I’m going to be representing, and I found that they have the same needs, some more than others.Lamont — the sidewalks, the gutters, the safety of their children”
If elected, Vallejo hopes to tackle the budget and invest in public safety.
“My top priority is going to start immediately looking at the budget and resources,” she said. “I say that because what I heard from all of the small outlying communities is the safety concern. They don’t have they enough sheriff’s close by, the responses aren’t fast.”
Lamont Chamber of Council President, Jose Gonzalez, is also in the running.
“I’d like to be that leader that brings the community together and bring more resources,” he said.
Gonzalez was born in Mexico, but came to the United States as a young boy. He became a citizen roughly 17 years after arriving in the U.S. Gonzalez was raised in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley before coming to Bakersfield to study business administration at Cal State Bakersfield.
“If elected to the supervisor role, I would bring more infrastructure. We’re in a community that’s been neglected for years. We need sidewalks, we need attention to the roads. We have issues, as well, with water. That’s a big issue. That needs to be checked. We need access to the water because it brings jobs to the community,” he said.
Gonzalez said his message to voters is clear:
“Let’s change things. Let’s work together to make things better for everyone.”
*This Thursday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m., 17’s Jim Scott, and Telemundo’s Jose Gaspar will moderate a debate between the three candidates. The program is set to air on KGET-TV 17.
Today marks 28 days until election day.