Politics & Government

Hurtado flexes political muscle in state Senate District 14 race

State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado highlighted a Blue Wave rally at her Tower District headquarters on Nov. 1. She is running to defeat Republican incumbent Andy Vidak in the 14th district.
State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado highlighted a Blue Wave rally at her Tower District headquarters on Nov. 1. She is running to defeat Republican incumbent Andy Vidak in the 14th district. jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

If Sanger City Councilmember Melissa Hurtado fails in her bid to upset state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, in the 14th State Senate District, it won’t be because she didn’t get the support of political power.

Flanked by Congressman Jim Costa, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Assemblymember Joaquín Arámbula, state Sen. Pro Tem Toni Atkins and a dozen other state Senators outside her Tower District campaign headquarters, Hurtado rallied the her troops to join the “blue wave” and get others to cast their votes for a 30-year-old making only her second-ever run for public office.

“I have a lot of great memories growing up here,” said Hurtado, who was elected to the Sanger City Council in 2016. “But, I also have a lot of memories that I don’t want to think about.

“Canvassing the district and knocking on doors, I’m reminded about those challenges.”

State Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins said Hurtado is on the verge of ousting Vidak, a Republican in a heavily Democratic district.

“We know that it’s close because they’re worried,” said Atkins. “Let me be clear, this is a tough race. We are close. We have seen the numbers.”

Hurtado, whose campaign has spent $1.7 million as of Oct. 20, hopes to do what Kern County Supervisor Leticia Pérez and now-Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chávez have failed to do: Defeat Vidak. (Chávez was on the Fresno school board when he challenged Vidak in 2016.

Vidak, a farmer, has spent $1.5 million. His television ads have painted Hurtado as a “Bay area liberal” who wants to raise taxes and take water away from area farmers.

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State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado poses with her niece, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and state Democratic Party chairman Eric Baumann. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

Hurtado’s political ads claim Vidak is no longer in touch with district residents and is instead a pawn for special interests.

Atkins said Hurtado “understands what it means to get things done.”

“She will not forget who she represents,” said Atkins during the rally where tacos and refreshments were served for campaign volunteers.

The key, said Atkins, will be turnout in a district that stretches from the City of Fresno to Arvin. Hillary Clinton carried the district with 58.7 percent of the vote in 2016.

Vidak won the June primary with 51.9 percent of the vote, while Hurtado captured 23.25 percent to advance to the general election.

Hurtado, 30, said the election is about people like George, a Parlier resident who “has given up and lost all hope. He doesn’t believe there is an opportunity for a better life.”

“This campaign is about David from Bakersfield, who I met last week and he spoke about the recent passing of his father and making sure we have a true advocate in the state Senate who can fight for the Valley and make sure we have access to health care,” said Hurtado.

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State Senate candidate Melissa Hurtado accepts a keepsake coaster from California Democratic Party chairman Eric Baumann. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA jesparza@vidaenelvalle.com

She spoke about residents in Stratford who went without water because of water pump problems, and the about-to-be-layed-off workers from Zacky Farms and other businesses.

“It’s about our community, our struggles and our vision for a better tomorrow,” said Hurtado, a health care advocate. “We are struggling and we need help. We need the right person advocating on our behalf, and we don’t have that.”

Arámbula said he will depend on supporters like Hurtado at the state Capitol to help him with legislation that benefits the Valley.

“We should not accept the status quo,” he said. “We can do better than what we have in Sacramento right now.”

Becerra, whose wife attended Roosevelt High School, said the Valley produces strong workers.

“It’s our time and our turn to get out there and make it possible for Melissa Hurtado to be our next state Senator,” said Becerra.

The rally was part of a 27-city Democratic Party Blue Wave tour as elected officials contacted voters in key districts to get the vote out.

Earlier Saturday, the busload of officials stopped in Merced to help Assemblymember Ana Cabellero in her state Senate race.

The tour continued in Fresno with a rally for Congressional candidate Andrew Janz before heading to Bakersfield to rally for Congressional candidate TJ Cox.

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