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Politics 101

Soria Explores Leaving Fresno City Council to Run for State Senate



Is Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria looking to run for state Senate as a Lindsay resident? (GV Wire File)
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A new year could mean a new election for termed-out Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria.

Multiple sources tell Politics 101 she is exploring a run for state Senate District 16, which covers Kings County and parts of Tulare and Kern counties. The same sources say she spoke with south Valley elected officials about the idea.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

The district does not cover the west Fresno area where Soria resides, so running for the seat would require Soria to move.

Sources also say she is considering taking up residency in her hometown of Lindsay, which is in the Senate district.

The filing period starts Feb. 14 and runs through March 11 (with a five-day extension likely since current SD 16 Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, says she will run in another district).

Also in Politics 101: 

  • What would happen to Soria’s seat?
  • What the city attorney said about Soria’s marriage.
  • Who is running for SD 16?
  • Tulare councilman running for Assembly seat.

What Happens to City Council Seat?

Playing this scenario out, if Soria files to run in SD 16, she would have to resign her city council seat at the same time. The city charter mandates that councilmembers must live within their district, and any Californian can only be registered to vote one place at a time.

The charter gives the city council options to fill the seat. Because it is the last year of her term, the council could appoint someone. Or, it could call a special election at least 90 days later.

Timing is important on the latter. The next scheduled city election is June 7. If Soria leaves by March 9, the council can consolidate the special election with the regular election if it acts fast, saving more than $150,000.

That could lead to a double District 1 election on June 7 — the special election to fulfill the remainder of the term through Jan. 2 and for the full term starting Jan. 3.

Fresno County Clerk James Kus tells Politics 101 that holding a special election could cost up to $175,000, but consolidating it with the June 7 date would be around $10,000.

City Attorney: Soria-Frazier Wedding Isn’t ‘Legal’

In November, Soria wed real estate developer Terance Frazier in a ceremony at a resort in Mexico.

But, in a Dec. 8, 2021 memo to Soria, City Attorney Douglas Sloan wrote that the marriage is not official.

“The wedding did not result in a ‘legal’ marriage because it was not registered there according to the laws of Mexico, nor here in California. In other words, the legal relationship, duties and obligations as between you and Mr. Frazier have not changed based on conducting a wedding ceremony at which you and Mr. Frazier were not legally married.”

For years, Soria has recused herself from any item involving Frazier, including his contract to operate the city-owned Granite Park recreation facility.

Sloan’s advice is for Soria to continue to recuse herself under Government Code 1090, the state’s conflict of interest law.

However, if the marriage is official, it could mean that any business involving Frazier would not be allowed to come before the city at all.

Ken White, a southern California attorney and expert on GC 1090, says recusal may not be enough.

“You can’t get out of it by simply recusing yourself. (The city council is) not supposed to vote on it at all. If it’s a contract with your wife and your wife is going to benefit, you cannot cure that by recusing yourself from the vote. Technically, the governing body should not be voting on it,” White said.

Current contracts would be grandfathered in, White says, but renewals or extensions would be subject to GC 1090.

White, understatedly, said applying the conflict of interest code is “complicated.”

Soria declined to discuss her future plans or Sloan’s memo when asked by GV Wire.

A Look at the SD 16 Race

portrait of California state Senator Andy Vidak

Andy Vidak

Two candidates have declared for SD 16: civil rights attorney Rob Fuentes, now of Porterville; and former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, currently of Bakersfield. Fuentes just moved back to his hometown after living in Fresno; Parra technically lives outside the district and would have to change her address.

Because of his move, Fuentes resigned last week from the Fresno City Planning Commission. Mayor Jerry Dyer now has two vacancies on the seven-member commission to appoint. Kathy Bray left her post last November and intends to run for the Fresno Unified school board.

One familiar name living in the area says he is not running, former state Sen. Andy Vidak. The Republican, now living in East Orosi, says he has “no interest” in returning to politics. Vidak represented SD 14 — which contained many of the same areas as the new SD 16 — from 2014-2018. He lost to current state Sen. Melissa Hurtado.

Sigala Mounts Second Bid for Assembly

Jose Sigala

Tulare City Councilman Jose Sigala said he is running for state Assembly in the 33rd District, which includes Kings county and parts of Tulare County.

“It’s time our district elects a leader who can deliver real results,” Sigala said in a news release. “The residents of our district are ready for a change in leadership. I am up for the challenge to serve all of our communities. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and go to Sacramento and deliver.”

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Porterville, currently represents the 26th District. After recently completed redistricting, Mathis declared he would run in the 33rd.

Mathis defeated Sigala in a 2018 Assembly race by 16 percentage points.

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