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Supervisor Says He Has an Opponent 'Because I'm White and Conservative'
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 2 months ago on
February 28, 2024

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Tulare Supervisor says he has opposition “Because I’m White and conservative.”

Blackstone merchants air grievances to local elected officials.

Two Patterson crime bills advance in Sacramento.

Who is running for Fresno County Democrat, GOP central committees?


Pete Vander Poel is running for his fifth term as Tulare County supervisor. He told a forum last Sunday about why he thinks Benny Corona is running against him.

“I’ve never had anyone run against me. This is the first time that I’ve had someone run against me in 16 years. And, off the record, you want to know why he’s running against me? Because I’m white and because I’m conservative. Since when does that matter? I represent an office where I believe that every single person, every single interest in this county, deserves a voice,” Vander Poel said.

Vander Poel made the comments during a candidate forum at Legacy Church in Visalia. In his previous four times running, he only had an opponent in 2008 when he first won office.

After the story first published, Vander Poel sent GV Wire this statement:

“At that event, I explained what my opponent had been saying about his running against me. I find it appalling that this election is being made about race, instead of results. As I said at the forum, this job is about representing everyone and I take that very seriously. I’m proud of my record serving Tulare County and all of its residents,” Vander Poel said.

Corona, in an email statement to Politics 101, said he is “running to represent everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, or any other characteristic.”

Corona also called himself a “true fiscal conservative.”

“Unlike the incumbent, I am committed to NEVER voting to give myself a raise and ensuring our taxpayer funds go where they are most needed and wanted by the people. Tulare County Supervisors make enough money as it is,” Corona wrote.

Corona is a Democrat; Vander Poel is a Republican. The election concludes on March 5.

This is not the first time a racially tinged comment has landed Vander Poel in trouble. In 2020, he apologized for a remark about fellow Supervisor Eddie Valero, when he said during a meeting “Supervisor Valero, wants another bite at the tortilla.”

That comment was made when Valero asked additional questions after a COVID presentation at the time.

Homeless, Crime Remain Merchants Concerns

Two elected leaders and one running for office met with the Blackstone Merchant’s Association on Tuesday. The problems, the merchants said, remain the same — homelessness and crime.

About 30 merchants met at Sierra Auto Center with Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi, Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, and city council candidate Roger Bonakdar.

It was mostly a listening session to hear the problems merchants always seem to have. The group’s president, AJ Rassamni, said he wants to hold such meetings with leaders every few months.

When homeless people don’t inhabit the area, Rassamni said shopping centers see a 30% increase in revenue within a month.

Rassamni also softened up somewhat on a new Crossroads Village affordable housing development.

“When Crossroads came, we were totally against it, and we tried to fight it. But I do understand that the city and the county and the state need to house these people,” Rassamni said.

Reforming Prop. 47 is also an association concern. The 2014 law reduced certain crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Retailers blame the law for increased theft.

“We cannot blame the police, if the laws come from Sacramento saying there’s no consequences, you can do whatever you want,” Rassamni said.

Fresno Councilmember Mike Karbassi (left), city council candidate Roger Bonakdar, and Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig listen to concerns from the Blackstone Merchant’s Association at a meeting at Sierra Auto Center on Feb. 27, 2024. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Two Patterson Crime Bills Advance

Two anti-crime bills from Assemblymember Jim Patterson advanced out of the public safety committee on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 1803 would allow a judge to impose restitution for victims of human trafficking.

“The realities are horrific,” Patterson told the committee. “These traffickers are enjoying the profits of something that is evil, hurtful, and possibly even for life.”

Patterson said restitution would help the victim.

Debra Rush of Fresno anti-trafficking group Breaking the Chains also testified. A trafficking survivor, Rush said her exploiters also stole her identity and ruined her credit.

She called the bill “a no-brainer.”

The California Public Defenders Association, testified in opposition to the bill. The group called the bill an “unwarranted” extension of restitution law, with a low chance that victims will ever see the money.

The bill passed 7-0, and will head to the Assembly floor. Patterson agreed to consider altering the age of when victims can seek restitution to ensure passage.

Assembly Bill 1804 would make it easier for law enforcement to use electronic surveillance in suspected fentanyl cases. Fresno police detective Dean Cardinale testified. He said wiretaps would help police catch major drug dealers.

The Drug Policy Alliance testified against the bill. The group called the bill “old drug war tactics” that will not curb overdoses.

The bill passed 7-0 and heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Debra Rush of Breaking the Chains testified for a bill that will make trafficking victims eligible for restitution. (State Assembly)

Local Party Leadership Also on the Ballot

While not the most prominent of the races on the March 5 election, voters will also decide local political party leadership positions. The future of the Fresno County Democrat and Republican central committees are at stake.

The committee is the governing board for the party, deciding policy and direction. Only registered voters of the party, and within the corresponding district, can vote. Both parties use the same district lines as the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza is running for District 3 re-election. So is his partner, Sandra Garcia — a staffer for Rep. Costa, D-Fresno.

Other elected leaders running for a party position include Eliseo Gamino (Firebaugh-Las Deltas school board) and Nabil Kherfan (Central Unified school board) in District 1.

Several Fresno City Hall staffers want a position on the central committee including Esparza aides Diana Gallardo and Celida Garcia; Shawn Clark — an aide to Tyler Maxwell — and Myra Campa — an aide to Annalisa Perea — are also running. And, Kherfan doubles as a staffer for Luis Chavez.

On the Republican side, the most notable name is Supervisor Nathan Magsig, running for a seat for District 5.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
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

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