Latino leaders gather to select candidate to run against Supervisor Couch

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“Democracy’s not always pretty,” remarked CSUB Political Science Professor Mark Martinez Tuesday after detailing the past week’s events. 

Professor Martinez along with Attorney H.A. “Beto” Sala were speaking one evening and identified a problem that has plagued minority candidates in Kern elections.

“Let’s just say mathematically you get three people, they get 20%, 20%, 20%, you got 60% and then David Couch is left with 30, 35, 40% and next thing you know by default he wins this thing because we’ve split the vote,” explained Martinez.

And so over 20 Latino elected officials, attorneys, community leaders and more gathered Thursday at Bill Lee’s to choose a candidate to run against incumbent District Four Supervisor David Couch.

The gathering included former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, County Supervisor Leticia Perez, attorneys David Torres and Daniel Rodriguez, Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola, Delano Mayor Grace Vallejo, former congressional candidate Emilio Huerta, and Delano City Councilmember Joe Aguirre.

After an hour and a half working lunch, candidate statements, and a vote, the group landed on Grace Vallejo.

“She has the experience and more importantly she has the service history that says that she stands the best chance to win,” explained Martinez.

But not all were pleased. 

Delano Council member Aguirre, who had planned on running himself, told 17’s sister station Telemundo Anchor Norma Gaspar, Supervisor Perez’ husband Fernando Jara appeared to intimidate Aguirre, pulling him aside saying “Remember me, remember my face.”

Jara told Telemundo  “I’m not going to lend credibility to slander, half truths, and political spin.”

When we asked Jara to respond to the charge, Jara simply offered the statement: “I think Grace [Vallejo] is a formidable opponent for the new seat.”

Supervisor Perez did not wish to speak on camera on the matter Tuesday morning, but while walking away from 17 News and Telemundo Anchor Jose Gaspar, Perez said across the open supervisor chambers, “Hey Gaspar, but that first thing you said was a total lie, a total lie.”

Multiple attendees we spoke with said if there was intimidation, they did not see it, and insist the meeting was a positive, if not blunt, representation of Kern’s Latinos coming together.

“If there’s enough unity in the beginning, if everybody’s behind this, we can defeat the situation,” said Martinez.

We reached out to Supervisor David Couch to hear his reaction to this initiative, but did not hear back as of news time.

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