There are four state assembly races affecting residents in Kern County, on the ballot in 2020.
The 34th district encompasses parts of Bakersfield and Oildale, Tehachapi and Bear Valley Springs, parts of the Mojave Desert, Ridgecrest, Taft and Maricopa. As of September 44% of registered voters in the district identified as republican, 29% democratic, 21% no party preference. Incumbant Vince Fong, a republican, is seeking a third term. The Bakersfield native once served as Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s district director. Challenger Julie Solis, a democrat, says although she knows this seat is a republican stronghold, she’s running to give voters a choice. The mother of three, is also a valley fever awareness advocate. During a debate on 17 News last month we asked the candidates what they thought of the state’s response to the covid-19 crisis. Solis replied, “COVID was unforseen. I think the governor is doing the best he can.” But assemblymember Fong has been critical of the response. “Governor Newsom right now is ruling by executive order instead of collaborating with our community.” In the primary this spring Fong took 71% of the vote, Solis 28%.
The 32nd district includes Hanford, Wasco, Shafter and parts of Bakersfield. The district makeup earlier this fall was 45% democratic, 25% republican and 23% no party preference. Incumbant Rudy Salas, a democrat, was first elected to the seat in 2012. He was born and raised in Kern County and previously served as a Bakersfield City Councilmember. Todd Cotta, a republican born and raised in Hanford, is challening Salas for his seat. The former deputy sheriff and current gun shop owner has been critical of the governor’s strategy tackling the pandemic. During our debate last month, Salas too expressed frustration. But the two men came out on opposite sides of the mask debate. “Look, I support the science and the science says when you wear a mask, you’re safer,” replied Salas when asked about his stance. Cotta replied, “I try to find businesses that don’t have a mask requirement, and myself at my business we don’t have a mask requirement.” In the primary election Salas won 58% of the vote and Cotta 41%.
The 26th district, encompasses Bishop, Tulare, Porterville, Visalia, and the Kern River Valley. Republicans make up 39% of registered voters here, democrats 33%, and no party preference 22%. Incumbant republican Devon Mathis of Visalia, has served in the position since 2014. He’s a veteran and says he’s focused on helping families. “We do a lot of good work here in the Kern River Valley listening to issues. Issues about water, agriculture, public services. Making sure the government works for you,” said Mathis. Challenger democrat Drew Phelps is from the central valley. He’s only 26-years-old and a senior policy analyst for a homebuilder. His top issues include internet and healthcare access. “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 that’s really important bringing the funding here to bolster the programs already in existence to use that extra stream.” In the primary Mathis came out ahead with 61% of the vote to Phelps’ 38%.
The 36th assembly district includes parts of Mojave, California City, Edwards Airforce Base, Rosamond, Palmdale, and much of Antelope Valley. Democrats make up 41% of registered voters, and republicans 30%. 22% are registered as no party preference. Despite more registered democrats in this district, the assembly seat has been held by republican Tom Lackey since 2014. Lackey took the seat from his current challenger democrat Steve Fox. Since then the two have been battling it out to represent this district. Lackey is a former CHP sergeant and says he wants to make sure the rural areas he represents have a seat at the table in Sacramento. Fox is a former educator and attorney. He faced an indecent exposure investigation which he fervently denies. He says he wants to be there for small businesses. Both hope to strengthen the aerospace industry. “We have Mojave, Edwards Air Force Base, plant 42 in the Antelope Valley. We have brought together participants and the aerospace research institute, and we want to build that cohesive and unique nature and the synergy that exists between the military, private industry. We work diligantly with those partners to build and maintain aerospace success,” said Lackey. “I’m asking voters to vote on the issues. I want to bring tax deductions for small businesses and generate jobs and work and money. We’re here to make a profit. We’re here to make everybody do that,” said Fox. In the primary Lackey got 53% of the vote, Fox 17%.