Local Democratic Showdown Upended With Surprise Hurtado Move
Melissa Hurtado, the first-term Democratic state senator from Sanger seemingly headed toward an intra-party battle against fellow Democratic state Sen. Anna Caballero, has changed course. Hurtado will now run in neighboring Senate District 16, she told GV Wire on Monday night.
“When the new districts were released, I initially planned to run in the new Senate District 14, which includes my family home in Sanger,” Hurtado said in a text. “I also understood the circumstances could change. As the daughter of immigrants, I learned from my parents that change is scary, but sacrifice is often necessary for greater good. I will always put what’s best for the Valley first, which is why I have decided to run in the new Senate District 16.”
Hurtado was slated to face her colleague, Caballero, in the newly redrawn SD 14. Prior to redistricting, Caballero represented SD 12, which included her then-home area of Salinas, as well as parts Madera and Fresno counties as well as all of Merced County. But Salinas has now been drawn into another Senate district, which will not be up for election until 2024. Caballero, facing the prospect of being forced out of the Senate at the end of her current term, chose to relocate her voter registration to Merced and run for a different seat.
Hurtado’s decision is an about-face. She told GV Wire last December she had no intention of moving out of Sanger.
But the Democratic establishment backed Caballero over Hurtado in the District 14 matchup. In a pre-endorsement vote among the party membership earlier this month, Caballero outpolled Hurtado, 77% to 22% which practically guarantees the official state party endorsement.
Caballero also scored major endorsements from labor groups, and the Central Valley Leadership Roundtable. Other names who have filed in SD 14 include religious leader Amnon Shor, R-Fresno and perennial candidate Paulina Miranda, D-Fresno.
Hurtado had already paid filing fees to run in SD 14 to the Fresno County elections office. The filing period runs until March 11, however, allowing Hurtado to change to the SD 16 race before ballots become official.
The San Joaquin Valley Sun first reported the rumors of Hurtado’s move.
A New Battle for SD 16
The SD 16 seat, which encompasses parts of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties and all of Kings County, has five other candidates — Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio, former Assemblymember Nicole Para, a Bakersfield Democrat; attorney Rob Fuentes, a Porterville Democrat; Imelda Ceja, a Bakersfield Democrat and labor leader; and David Shepard, a Porterville farmer and the only announced Republican thus far.
The top two vote-earners in the June 7 primary will advance to the Nov. 8 election, regardless of party affiliation.
Toni Atkins, the Senate majority leader from San Diego, said the party caucus will back Hurtado.
“While it hasn’t been an easy decision for Senator Hurtado, I commend her for running in Senate 16 to ensure that representation,” Atkins said in the statement announcing Hurtado’s switch.
Fuentes earned the pre-endorsement nod with 39% of the vote. However, that was not enough to take the party endorsement outright. Because no candidate received more than 50% of the poll, the state party will not decide.
Half of the voters of SD 16 are in Kern County, which Hurtado currently represents. The June and November elections will be based on the newly drawn lines.
Hurtado will have to move into SD 16 when she files to run. While she did not say where she would move to, she told GV Wire it would be “not far.” Other SD 16 candidates have also changed their addresses to run. Fuentes formerly lived in Fresno; Parra lived in Bakersfield, but outside the district’s lines.
Also on Monday, Parra refuted any rumors that she would bow out of the race.
I am running for State Senate (D16). We are running a great campaign. I welcome all challengers. I have over 30 years of public service in the Central Valley and I plan to spend the next 8 years, if the voters decide, in the State Senate. #SD16 pic.twitter.com/k3ICkZF3Ut
— Nicole Parra for State Senate 16 (@Parraforsenate) February 22, 2022