Fresno Councilman Looks to Oust Former Boss from County Board Seat
They used to be friends. One worked for the other. They had lunch together nearly every day.
But, when it comes to representing south Fresno on the county’s board of supervisors, friendship goes out the window.
First reported by GV Wire in December, Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez has now made his run for supervisor official. The election will pit Chavez against incumbent Sal Quintero, running for his third term on the county board in 2024.
“We used to be friends,” Chavez, 43, said. “At the end of the day, I feel that I could do a better job in representing the constituents.”
When Quintero, 75, served as a Fresno city councilman from 2011-2016, Chavez was his chief of staff. Quintero said Chavez did a “credible job.” Chavez succeeded Quintero as councilman for District 5, covering southeast Fresno.
“I haven’t talked to him in a while,” Quintero said. “I know my job. I’ve got a record and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Both Chavez and Quintero are registered Democrats.
Chavez becomes the second Fresno councilmember to challenge a sitting county supervisor. Last week, Garry Bredefeld announced his intention to run against Steve Brandau for supervisor.
Chavez: Quintero Absent on COVID
Chavez said Quintero was not there for the people during the COVID pandemic.
“(The) supervisor was was nowhere to be seen. You know, the city had to step up,” Chavez said. “Our response, I think, during the pandemic was pretty telling on who shows up to work and who stays at home.”
Quintero defended his actions during the pandemic.
“I handled it in the way that it was recommended — that we can stay home and work from home. And I believe that we were able to be responsive to the needs of the district,” Quintero said. “We worked closely with our health department and in getting whatever responses we need to do to the community. And I think we did a very good job as a whole.”
Chavez said he organized drive-thru COVID testing, vaccine drives, food distributions, and helped secure millions of dollars to build new health centers.
“There was not much support from the county supervisor. You know, these positions are not ceremonial. You have to do the work,” Chavez said. “I think that’s going to be a good opportunity to contrast just what you bring to the table and what you would do different.”
Chavez: Quintero a No-Show on Foster Youth Oversight
Chavez also said Quintero was a no-show overseeing the county’s foster youth system. The department was criticized after reports in 2021 surfaced that foster youth were sleeping on tables in office buildings.
Quintero serves as chair of the Foster Care Standards and Oversight Committee. In 17 meetings since April 2021, Quintero attended only two, in November 2021 and January 2022 — after the story broke. He is usually represented by his proxy, chief of staff Ari Martinez.
“That was supposed to be Sal’s responsibility to attend to that and hear the messages then communicate that back to the board. That didn’t happen. And so I think it’s important to show up. When you don’t show up. You know, children are affected. Seniors are affected. Constituents are affected. And I think that’s just an example of how important it is for you to show up to work If you’re getting paid,” Chavez, who said he is a foster parent, said.
Quintero responded: “Anything that needed to get taken care of through our office, we were responsive in that they reported to me and we worked out whatever I needed to get done.”
Regarding the care of foster children sleeping in buildings, Quintero said, “We had not been informed of that. None of the board members had, and that was never reported in our meetings.”
Incumbent Advantage Neutralized?
Chavez dismissed Quintero’s advantage as a two-term incumbent.
Quintero was first elected in 2016, and won an uncontested re-election in 2020. Before, he served two stints on the Fresno City Council, 1995-2003 and 2011-2016.
“I’m also a two-term incumbent,” Chavez said. He won a special election for city council (to succeed Quintero) in 2016, and won re-elections in 2018 and 2022. Chavez also served on the Fresno Unified school board from 2012-2016.
“We’ve both been elected quite a bit of times in south Fresno and have our trajectory and public service. At the end of the day, these seats are not owned by anybody. You compete, you run, you ask the constituents to support you,” Chavez said.
The Fresno City Council District 5 seat has several overlapping areas with Fresno County Supervisor District 3. The latter covers much of south Fresno, and several communities south, including Calwa.
The Money Game
Quintero reported nearly $75,000 cash on hand through Dec. 31 in his campaign account.
Chavez reported $110,000 remaining in his 2022 Fresno City Council account. He plans to raise $300,000.
As of Wednesday, Chavez has not officially filed paperwork to either raise funds or transfer money to a supervisor account.
A county limit, approved by supervisors in 2020, may restrict how much Chavez can transfer. Under threat from a state law, supervisors capped the amount from a single contributor to $30,000.
The county, for now, is interpreting that to include transfers from one political committee to another.
“The County’s position is that the ordinance limits contributions to $30,000 per election from all sources including previous campaign committees belonging to or controlled by the candidate for elective County office. The County is still analyzing the applicable state law on this issue,” county spokeswoman Sonja Dosti said in an emailed statement.