Politics & Government

Hurtado looking to turn numbers in her favor in 14th state Senate District

State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado poses for a photo with her 14-month-old niece Kira during Oct. 6 campaign event.
State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado poses for a photo with her 14-month-old niece Kira during Oct. 6 campaign event.

The numbers are there for 30-year-old Melissa Hurtado, a Sanger City Councilmember who believes now is the time to replace the Republican incumbent in the 14th state Senate District.

▪ The district, which stretches from south Fresno to Arvin, is 71.16 Latino.

▪ Democrats hold a 47.38 edge among registered voters. Republicans are second with 27.45 percent, while those with no party preference account for 21.26 percent.

▪ Hillary Clinton carried the district with 58.7 percent of the vote in 2016.

▪ In the June primary, Vidak won 54.1 percent of the vote in a field of four that included Hurtado. She advanced to the general election with 23.25 percent of the vote.

However, Vidak won a 2014 special election by capturing 51.9 percent of the vote against Kern County Supervisor Leticia Pérez. The Hanford farmer followed that up by winning his 2014 re-election bid with 54.1 percent of the vote against now-Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chávez.

Hurtado remains undaunted.

“The voters, actually when I go and knock on their doors, are shocked,” said Hurtado, who was elected to the Sanger City Council in 2016. “I don’t know if previous candidates, or even the incumbent I’m running against, have actually gone and knocked on doors.

I don’t know if previous candidates, or even the incumbent I’m running against, have actually gone and knocked on doors.

Melissa Hurtado, state Senate District 14 candidate

“They’re in shock that I’m there and they’re excited that I’m out there reaching out and hearing them out and having conversations.”

Translating that reaction into votes will be key for Hurtado, who has walked in 104-degree weather knocking on doors in Porterville and has done nine ride-alongs with police in nine cities within the sprawling district.

A sign that she could make an impact showed up on television in the form of a campaign ad that paints Vidak as beholden to special interests in Sacramento instead of a district that ranks among the poorest in the state.

Photos decorate a portion of a wall at the Tower District campaign office of state Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

“I just want to make sure that the voters know the facts about our current representative, and that our current representative is not advocating for the interests of the district,” said Hurtado after opening her Tower District campaign office last Saturday.

Hurtado – speaking to a group of volunteers and supporters that included Assemblymember Joaquín Arámbula and Fresno City Council candidates Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza – said that Vidak once had a vision for the district that includes 30.3 percent of Fresno and 19.4 percent of Bakersfield. Vidak, she said, has since lost that vision.

Hurtado, who was born in Fresno and graduated from Sanger High School (2006), said the district needs state and federal help in digging out of poverty.

“Poverty does not discriminate against anyone,” said Hurtado, who said the Great Recession hit her hard during her time at California State University, Sacramento. She still has a $40,000 student loan.

“It can attack anyone at anytime. You can have a college degree, own a business or multiple businesses,” said Hurtado, a health care advocate. “We need to work together to attack poverty.”

Hurtado, the oldest of three children born to a couple who migrated to Central California from Texas’ Río Grande Valley, said the district is ready for “some new blood” because Vidak has moved away from the district’s needs.

State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado greets Miguel Arias during the opening of her campaign office in the Tower District on Oct. 6. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

“When you distance yourself from the voters and the community and the district you represent, and you’re talking about things that are irrelevant to the district, the focus the entire time should be on our district and how we’re going to make it better,” said Hurtado. “I think a lot of voters that have voted for him in the past see that. They see he is no longer working for their interests.”

The district needs investments, and jobs that pay more than the minimum wage, she said.

Hurtado is banking on voter turnout to defeat Vidak.

“It comes down to voter turnout, and making sure that voters are excited and optimistic,” she said. “My message to voters is: Do we want to wait another four years, or do we want to try to take a chance on me to try to change our region around.”

That is why she has traveled to the 19 cities that are part of the district. That included a stop at last Saturday’s cotton festival in Corcoran.

“We should not be OK with the status quo,” said Hurtado.