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Who Besides the Obvious Are Running for Fresno Mayor?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 years ago on
December 7, 2019

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The Fresno mayor’s race is less than 90 days away. And although things have been somewhat quiet among the two frontrunners, the campaigns of Fresno County prosecutor Andrew Janz and former police chief Jerry Dyer are about to rev up.
But at least three other candidates will be on the March 3, 2020, ballot.


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Who are they?
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David Taub
Politics 101
According to the office of county clerk Brandi Orth: Rev. Floyd Harris Jr., businessman Bill Gates, and salesman/recording artist Nickolas Wildstar have qualified for the race.
And, with incumbent Lee Brand not seeking reelection, there’s still time for more people to file. The deadline Wednesday, Dec. 11.

About the Others

A little bit about the three lesser-known candidates:
Wildstar ran for governor in 2014, and again in 2018 as a Libertarian and received more than 11,000 votes, or 0.2%. He has lived in California for the last 20 years and is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While campaigning last year, Wildstar says, he liked Fresno so much he moved here this past June.
Gates owns Micro Private Security. He was previously known as Nabil Samuel. He says he legally changed his name to Gates and has lived in Fresno for 11 years.
Harris is a longtime Fresno resident and community activist. He announced his intention to run at an immigration rally last month. He serves as an assistant pastor at the New Light For New Life Church of God.

Is a Runoff Likely With a Big Field?

If no candidate receives a majority, the top two would face each other in a runoff in November.
The last two instances of an open Fresno mayoral seat went to a runoff.
In 2016, Henry R. Perea led Lee Brand after the primary, 45%-31%. H Spees finished third at 18%. Others received 6% of the vote. Brand won in the general election.
In 2008, Henry T. Perea led Ashley Swearengin after the first round, 27.5% to 27.1%. A field of nine others — some strong political names, and some not — shared 45% of the vote. Swearengin won in the general election.
If Dyer and Janz are in a close race as expected, losing 4-6 percentage points to other candidates could make the difference between getting over the 50% margin, and eight more months of campaigning.

Young Dems Rally Around Local Candidates

The Fresno County Young Democrats held a fundraising get-together Tuesday night. The intimate occasion was a chance to rally around Dems running for mayor and Congress.
Andrew Janz and Esmeralda Soria, candidates for Fresno mayor and Congress, respectively, gave brief speeches. Secretary of State Alex Padilla provided the keynote address.
Kingsburg councilwoman Jewel Hurtado also gave a brief speech, encouraging her fellow Democrats to support anyone running. The 21-year old is the rising star in the party. She was introduced as the Central Valley’s “AOC,” a nod to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young, progressive New York congresswoman.
Also, the Democratic Central Committee elections, which are on the March 3 ballot, will see a competitive race. The committee has 23 positions across five districts — with the borders mirroring the county supervisor districts. Already, there are more candidates than seats — assuming that everyone who pulled papers to run follows through on turning things in.

Andrew Janz speaks to the Fresno County Young Democrats on Dec. 3, 2019, at the Downtown Club in Fresno. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Stay in Your Lane No More?

It has long been a Fresno City Council tradition to not interfere in land use or zoning issues taking place in the district of a colleague.
But, council president Paul Caprioglio may have given his colleagues permission to deviate from that unofficial policy.
During Thursday’s debate about the size of a digital billboard in Garry Bredefeld’s District 6, Caprioglio talked about the controversy a few years ago over building the Hustler Hollywood store in his district.
“One of my favorite sayings is staying in your lane,” Caprioglio said, recalling how no other council member joined him in opposing the store at Highway 41 and Shaw Avenue. “I respect everyone’s opinions on staying in the lane, and so forth. But there are occasions where tough decisions have to be made. In my view, you have to think of the greater good of the community.”
With the billboard, Bredefeld objected to a waiver allowing a digital billboard overlooking Highway 41 to go beyond the 60 feet in height the city allows. Four other council members joined Bredefeld. Caprioglio was the lone dissenter, with Esmeralda Soria abstaining.

Mathis Faces Challenge from Phelps

Drew Phelps of Tulare is the latest candidate who is hoping to flip a red Assembly seat blue.

portrait of Devon Mathis
— Devon Mathis
Photo of Assembly candidate Drew Phelps
— Drew Phelps
The Democrat is running against Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) in the 26th District, which includes Visalia, all of Inyo County, and part of Kern County.
Mathis is running for his fourth term, first elected in 2014.
Phelps, who is an analyst at Granville Homes, will open his campaign office Saturday in Tulare. It’s at 879 E. Merritt Ave.
This is his first run for public office, but he has extensive political experience. And, though a Democrat, he is a former staff member in the offices of former Republican Assembly Leader Connie Conway and former state Sen. Andy Vidak, a Hanford Republican. Phelps also served on the staff of Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno).
Phelps earned a B.A. in political science from Pitzer College and an M.A. in American politics from Claremont Graduate University.
“I’m running because, simply put, we deserve better,” Phelps said in a statement. “We deserve solutions that are tailored to Valley interests and we need them soon.”
Mathis served two tours in Iraq as a sergeant in the Army National Guard was awarded a Purple Heart. He lists as his platform as being pro-Second Amendment and anti-High-Speed Rail.
The latest registration figures for the 26th District show the GOP with a 39%-31% advantage over Democrats, with 24% at no party preference.
In the 2018 election, the Democrats gained five Assembly seats, giving them a 60-20 edge.
Disclosure: GV Wire publisher Darius Assemi is the president and CEO of Granville Homes.

40 Under 40

Business Street hosted its 13th annual “40 Under 40” event Thursday night at Chukchansi Park.
Fresno City Councilman Nelson Esparza, 29, was the only elected leader to receive the honor.
Others with political connections included James Martinez who works in U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ Fresno office, St. Rest Baptist Church pastor D.J. Criner, and Linda Barreto, the director of the New American Legal Clinic at San Joaquin College of Law.
That’s just 10% of the award recipients. Click here for the full list.

Fresno City councilman Nelson Esparza (left) and Sen. Kamala Harris staffer James Martinez (right) at the 40 Under 40 event at Chukchansi Park on Dec. 5, 2019 (GV Wire/David Taub)
NALC director Linda Barreto at the 40 Under 40 event at Chukchansi Park on Dec. 5, 2019. (GV Wire/David Taub)
 
 

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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