John Hernández looks for upset in 21st District race
By JUAN ESPARZA LOERA
Vida en el Valle
(Published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 04:06PM)
FRESNO Until an internal poll showed him in a dead heat with Republican candidate David Valadao -- and a pro-Republican national group began to run television assailing Hernández and his support of the Affordable Care Act -- not many political observers gave the Democrat much of a chance against the more heavily funded opponent in the newly created 21st Congressional District.
Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies plowed $619,000 in television buys for the ad titled 'Visions.'
Hernández said the ad buy shows that Valadao, the sitting 31st District Assemblymember, doesn't believe his own poll showing a 20-percentage lead.
Valadeo's campaign told The Fresno Bee that the Republican had a 53-33 percentage lead over Hernández, with 14 percent either undecided or not supporting either candidate.
Hernández said his poll shows a 41-37 percentage lead by Valadeo, with 22 percent undecided.
"Our poll is a true reflection of how the race is going," said Hernández, executive director of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Until the recent developments, Hernández's campaign was virtually ignored by the Democratic National Congressional Committee. Now, the committee has backed telephone calls to voters in the heavily Latino district that stretches from Fresno County to Kern County.
Democratic Congressmembers like Nancy Pelosi, Loretta Sánchez, Joe Baca and Zoe Lufgren have contributed money.
Hernández said labor and conservationists have also begun to show interest in his race.
Hernández, who has relied on a volunteer staff of 300 to knock on doors, said he has been selective about media buys.
"We're being very frugal with how we spend our dollars," said Hernández, who surprised some when he finished second in the March primary ahead of Fresno City Councilmember Blong Xiong to reach the general election.
Xiong had received the endorsements of many Fresno County Democrats, while Hernández went to Kern County to establish his campaign headquarters.
Hernández believes the district, where Democrats have a 15-percentage point registration advantage, will back him. President Obama, he said, has a lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the district.
"Democrats are going to vote Democrats," said Hernández, who is making his political debut.
Hernández said it will be his campaign's responsibility to make sure Democratic voters get to the polls.
Hernández questions why Valadao's television commercial and campaign website does not identify him as a Republican.
He said some residents in the Delano area have complained that campaign workers for Valadao and Republican Assembly Pedro Ríos have passed their candidates off as either Republican or supporting Latino-friendly issues like the DREAM Act or immigration reform.
Hernández said those complaints will be made known to Kern County election officials.
Most of the newly redrawn district is currently represented by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. However, Costa has decided to run for the 16th District instead. Two years ago, Costa squeaked past Republican challenger Andy Vidak.