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Local Democratic Showdown Upended With Surprise Hurtado Move

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State Sen. Melissa Hurtado will run for re-election and avoid a battle against fellow Democratic incumbent Anna Caballero. (GV Wire file)
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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 About-Face

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.

Anna Caballero officially announced her run for Senate District 14 in January. (GV Wire file)

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.

Read Hurtado’s Full Statement

[Update, 2/22/22: information regarding the state Democratic Party process for endorsements has been updated. The party is not slated to decide an endorsement in Senate District 16 because no candidate received 50% or more in the pre-endorsement poll.]

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