With a pending recall hanging over her, Kingsburg Councilwoman Jewel Hurtado is apologizing over news of a DUI arrest in Fresno last month.
“I am not a bad person, but I made a terrible choice,” Hurtado told GV Wire Wednesday morning through a nervous laughter. “I have to take care of myself and get work done.”
In her statement made to local media, she said she accepts responsibility and vows to contribute her council stipend to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Hurtado faces an October 15 court date if she is charged by the Fresno County District Attorney. She says she has retained an attorney, but did not reveal a name.
Prior to her recent arrest, court records show Hurtado received a citation in January 2020 for texting while driving. She paid a $157 fine.
She says supporters have reached out to her offering words of encouragement.
Hurtado has been in the political spotlight since she won her Kingsburg council seat by just eight votes as a 20-year old in 2018. She became the “It Girl” of the regional political scene. She’s been compared by some to New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her youth and progressive politics.
Aside from her work as a councilwoman, Hurtado is not employed. She is a college student on summer break. After graduating from Fresno City College, she is set to start at Cal State Bakersfield in the fall. She recently won a scholarship from the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation.
Hurtado was arrested 2:11 a.m. on June 21 by the CHP on Shaw Avenue, east of Highway 41.
In the report written by the officer — whose name is redacted — the arrest was made based on observation of Hurtado’s driving, objective signs of intoxication, her admission to consuming an alcoholic beverage and the results of a field sobriety test.
She was cited and released into the care of another person, whose name was also redacted.
The exact blood alcohol content level obtained from her test was redacted, but Hurtado was charged with driving with a BAC of .08% or greater. In California, it is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level at or above .08%.
As far as details of her arrest or what she was doing that night, Hurtado offered no comment other than a statement she gave to other local media.
Recall Notice Claims ‘Marxist/Socialist Agenda’
On June 23, supporters of a Hurtado recall turned in dozens of signatures in a Notice of Intent to the Kingsburg City Clerk.
“Councilperson Hurtado has continually demonstrated an anti-business attitude in her actions on the city council. Councilperson Hurtado has demonstrated a Marxist/socialist agenda in her activities and actions, which does not represent her constituency,” the notice says in part.
Hurtado filed her response a week later.
“With a stellar record of collaboration with City Council members, Councilmember Hurtado has made a measurable impact in service to her constituents and the City of Kingsburg,” Hurtado wrote.
She cited her work to contain COVID, “usher over 1,000 new jobs” and help distribute CARES federal stimulus funds.
An official recall notice was filed after Hurtado’s unsuccessful attempt to win council approval to recognize June as LGBTQ Pride month in Kingsburg and fly the Pride flag at City Hall. Hurtado is a self-identified member of the LGBT community.
Following the measure’s defeat, Hurtado led a Pride event at a city park on June 26.
The Recall Process
Proponents of the recall have already completed the initial steps — collecting signatures for the Notice of Intent (20 were needed; 27 appear in documents filed).
Fresno County Clerk James Kus said the proponents have until July 12 to turn in a first draft of their petition document. After it is approved (the clerk has 10 days to examine), proponents would have 60 days to collect 359 signatures (25% of the 1,433 registered voters in District 1) to qualify a recall election.
The county clerk would have 30 days to verify signatures. If that passes, the Kingsburg City Council has 14 days to call for an election to take place 88-125 days later.
Given that timeframe, a recall election could take place around February or March 2022. Hurtado is up for re-election in November 2022.
Kingsburg City Clerk Abigail Palsgaard said the Fresno County Clerk estimated the cost to hold the election would be between $80,000-$90,000.
Hurtado’s Full Statement
Here is a statement Hurtado has distributed to the media regarding her arrest:
“I owe my constituents and supporters an apology. I made a mistake and I am sorry. I’m taking responsibility for my actions and waiting for my day in front of a judge. I trust that they will make the right decision. For those that have expressed their concern, trust that with the support of my family and friends I am working to be better and learn from this experience. Irrespective of the outcome, I’m committing to donating my monthly city stipend for the remainder of my term on the council to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).”