26th Assembly District candidates share visions for Kern River Valley

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LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KGET) — The candidates running for the 26th Assembly District shared their visions for the Kern River Valley Monday.

Incumbent Republican Devon Mathis of Visalia is facing a challenge from Democrat Drew Phelps of Tulare.

The district includes Visalia ,Tulare, and Porterville. Additionally, the borders comprise of Bishop to the north and Death Valley extending to the Nevada-California line. The Kern River Valley is the only portion of Kern County in the district.

Mathis, who has represented the 26th Assembly District since 2014, is asking voters who live there to give him a fourth term in office.

“My issue priorities have always been putting people first. I know what it’s like to sit at that kitchen table and figure out the bills to make ends meet. I’ve been there,” he said.

“I have children and I know that struggle. So whenever I cast votes in Sacramento, it’s for you and your families.” An Iraq War veteran, Mathis serves on the governor’s military council and is the vice chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee.

“We do a lot of good work here in the Kern River Valley listening to issues about water, agriculture, [and] public services making sure the government works for you,”he continued.

Phelps, a fourth generation resident of the Central Valley, spoke last month before the Democratic Club of the Kern River Valley about his candidacy.

“We’re lacking unfortunately from so many government officials,” he said in front of the group. If elected, he said he’ll hold similar meetings with constituents from both sides of the aisle.

“I’m running to be a louder voice, have more of a seat at the table in Sacramento,” Phelps said. “I’ve spent time working in Sacramento on the other side of the aisle for Republicans even though I’ve been a lifelong Democrat. That showed me you can be effective from a rural area; you just have to have the right approach to it.”

Phelps, 26, is a senior policy analyst for the local “Granville Homes” builder. His top issue priorities include access to broadband internet and healthcare.

“Here in the Kern River Valley, where you do have folks lacking access to care and access to mental healthcare, folks in this area should not have to drive down the hill to Bakersfield to receive that care, so it really important to bring the funding here to bolster the programs already in existence to use that extra stream.”

Phelps argued his opponent has not adequately represented the district.

“Our district has been ignored for far too long,” he stated. “The incumbent has been focused far too much on personal issues, and the bottom line is he has been ineffective in general,” Phelps continued.

Mathis disagreed.

“It’s election season and haters are gonna hate,” he said. “I have a proven record of getting things done and being a phone call away. Call me. Call my personal cell phone. 559-202-5692. I’m here for you.”

Monday marked 57 days until General Election Day, Nov. 3.

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