Friday was an historic day in Kern County as its supervisorial maps have been redrawn to include two Latino-majority districts for the first time.
This was the culmination of a years-long lawsuit by Latino advocates, which resulted in a federal judge ruling the now former map violated the Voting Rights Act.
There was relief and applause Friday after the Latino Kern County plaintiffs represented by the Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund secured a civil rights victory in federal court against Kern.
“Tomorrow is my uncle Cesar Chavez’s birthday, so I’m honored to be a part of this because he would have been so proud of me,” said one plaintiff Dorothy Velazquez triumphantly.
Federal Judge Dale A Drozd ruled the old map diluted the Latino vote by splitting up densely populated Latino areas.
And after long negotiations, a new map with a new Latino majority district was agreed upon behind closed doors with input from current supervisors, county attorneys, and MALDEF.
So what’s different?
District four, represented by Supervisor David Couch, sees the biggest change, losing the city of Taft and picking up large Latino cities including Arvin, Delano, McFarland and Shafter.
“The demographics of Kern County are changing. The county is not the same county it was ten years ago, 30 years ago. You could not have drawn this district ten years ago, because the population wasn’t there,” said County Counsel Mark Nations.
District five, the existing Latino-majority district represented by Supervisor Leticia Perez, will lose Arvin and Lamont, but pick up more of east Bakersfield.
Eastern Kern remains split up into north and south districts with district two stretching from Boron to Taft, and district three does not change much, encompassing Oildale and surrounding areas of Bakersfield.
But the new map isn’t the only headline.
Instead of two supervisor elections this year, the new Latino district, district four, will also be up for reelection this year according to the settlement–two years early.
All supervisor elections this year will pushed from June to November.
This means Supervisor David Couch will now be in an unexpected situation of facing reelection.
“While I do not agree with the process this board has taken throughout the redistricting process, I am committed to continuing to serve the fourth district. I am proud of the accomplishments we’ve made over the last five years in the fourth district. I look forward to bringing those ideas and energy to the new additions of the district,” Couch said in a statement.
So who will challenge Supervisor Couch now unexpectedly now running for reelection two years early?
One name that has come up after he suddenly dropped out of a congressional race earlier this year is Emilio Huerta, the son of labor icon Dolores Huerta.
Huerta told 17 News Friday he cannot say yes or no yet, but he is willing to consider running for that supervisor seat.
Huerta was in that courtroom Friday.
In the end, Kern County will have spent between 5.5 and 6 million dollars fighting and losing this lawsuit, three million dollars of which will go to MALDEF to cover legal and expert fees.