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Vidak Victory Needs More Vetting


Hanford resident and cherry famer Andy Vidak won an upset political victory for the Republican Party and California residents in the Central Valley earlier this year. In a special election for the 16th state senate district in the Bakersfield, Vidak reached to a heavily agrarian, Hispanic community, beating back Democrat Leticia Perez, a Kern County Supervisor.
This race was significant because a generational farmer won in a district with a two-to-one Democratic registration advantage (44—22). This race further proves that the Republican Party is hardly out of luck, or out of the loop, but that a well-entrenched, coordinated effort on the part of party leaders and volunteer activists can take back California from the Democratic supermajority currently in power in Sacramento.

July 23rd proved to be the beginning of a Republican Renaissance in the state of California, yet few media outlets reported on the election, and fewer Republicans (let alone independent and Democrats) have been paying attention.

How did this seat open up, and what followed? And why haven’t more people heard about it?

Earlier this year, reports surfaced detailing that State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) was resigning his seat to work as a lobbyist for Chevron. A moderate Democrat who favored businesses and resisted taxes, Rubio’s departure might have opened up room for a more liberal Democrat to join the State senate President Darrel Steinberg’s supermajority. Despite reports of improprieties with the Chevron corporation as reason for his resignation, Rubio left office without must fanfare and opened up an opportunity for the Republican Party to chip away at the unprecedented Democratic supermajority.

As soon as I found about this opportunity n early February, I contacted a Republican Party operative in Sacramento, who sensed that the district was not winnable. Disconcerting, to say the least. I then called a Republican media activist, who told me that the seat may be winnable, even though the Republican was facing a double-digit to take the seat. The cynicism of some party consultants is very discouraging, yet the sentiment did not last.

At the time, I was receiving emails and mailers to endorse the next Republican Party chairman, including one gentleman from the Glendora region. I shared that I would be more than happy to support his chairmanship if he could whip up support and take back state senate district 16, a means of creating competition and demonstrating excellence with networking and communications. We had trouble identifying the full boundaries of the district, yet ultimately he figured this race into his campaign.

Like most operatives in the state, the candidate whom I had contacted did not know open the special election opportunity in the Central Valley. This lack of communication within party leaders and local activists has become the main liability to a strong, vibrant Republican Party in the state of California.

Former Assemblyman and state senator Jim Brulte won the chairmanship, with a commitment to increase registration and strengthen the party’s standing in spite of the recent supermajority win for the California Democrats.

He made the state senate district race a high priority, reaching out to voters and volunteers throughout the state.

The primary was a close call, one which Hanford cherry farmer Vidak nearly won, so closely that Perez had conceded, then rescinded. Vidak mounted a strong run-off campaign, stressing local issues, including the regulatory burdens hurting Central Valley farmers. He spear-headed heated opposition to the California bullet train boondoggle, which will force generational farmers off their land through eminent domain. But the most galvanizing issue for Valley residents was the water issue, and Vidak tapped into this frustration to win the run-off by six points in a two-to-one Democratic district.

Not money, not fliers, but a lot of hard-working volunteers pulled of this wonderful upset. Phone banks throughout Southern California were whipping up the vote in the 16th state senate district. The organization and coordination of all these efforts paid off in full. Yet to this day, I still meet and greet with Republicans and conservative independents who have no idea that there was a special election race in the Central Valley, and more importantly that a Republican took the seat in a heavily Democratic and Hispanic constituency. At least the Los Angeles Times reported on the Vidak victory, but still this contest has received too little vetting.

Of course, the California Democratic Party would like to suppress this victory, and certainly keep future Republicans from learning key lessons from the Vidak Victory:

1. A candidate with strong identity (knows who he is) and identification (whom the voters know) will do well in any race.

2. A candidate who not only understands local issues, but can articulate them based on head knowledge and experience

3. Candidates who amass ground-swelling support and grass-roots initiative can overtake any registration/special interest advantage.

The California Republican Party does not have to change its voice, or alter its values, but rather strengthen the communication among volunteers, operatives, and activists throughout the state. The Vidak Victory needs more vetting, CA GOP. Learn from this election win, and take back your state!

in News
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