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Election Update: Assembly Candidates Tangipa and Helsel in Tight Race for Runoff
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 month ago on
March 8, 2024

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David Tangipa narrowly holds the runner-up spot in AD 8. Will it hold up?

Nick Richardson pads his margin for a runoff spot in Fresno City Council District 6.

Also-ran Melissa Hurtado makes endorsement in congressional race.

Fresno planning commissioner responds to plan to replace him.


David Tangipa may have just enough votes to qualify for a November runoff for a state Assembly seat.

The first-time candidate is running for Assembly District 8, which includes Fresno and six other counties. Part of the district covers almost all of Clovis and the northern half of Fresno.

Former Congressman George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, is the overall leader, with 37% of the vote as of totals through Thursday night. He is almost assuredly advancing in the top-two system.

Tangipa’s situation is more tenuous. The Clovis Republican currently leads (as of Friday afternoon) another newcomer, Caleb Helsel, D-Clovis, by 743 votes for second place. After Tuesday’s election night, Tangipa led by 35 votes. By Wednesday’s count, Helsel led by 485 votes.

Fresno County still has an estimated 40,500 votes to count, and that will likely benefit Tangipa. He leads overall in the county with 39%, his strongest result in the seven-county region. Helsel is doing well in the smaller mountain counties (Calaveras, Inyo, Mono, Tuolumne), but there may not be enough votes there to balance Tangipa’s Fresno total.

Richardson On Track for Runoff

The numbers are breaking for Marine veteran and safety consultant Nick Richardson to qualify for the November runoff for Fresno City Council District 6 (northeast Fresno). The latest returns on Thursday saw Richardson expand his second-place lead over Molly Fagundes-Johnston to 511 votes.

Richardson isn’t willing to call it a win just yet. But he is confident that whether it is him or Fagundes-Johnston, primary leader Roger Bonakdar will fall in November.

“There are 20,000 veterans in Fresno who need their voice. So I’m doing everything I can, keeping my fingers crossed. If it is me, I can follow through on what I said. If that doesn’t work out, I will be entirely behind the candidate who passes me,” Richardson said.

If those numbers hold, Richardson will face Bonakdar, an attorney, in the Nov. 5 general election. Bonakdar leads with 37%, followed by Richardson, 27%; Fagundes-Johnston, 23%; and Raj Sodhi-Layne, 13%.

Richardson’s success came despite raising ($26,000) and spending ($23,000) the least of the candidates. He said starting his campaign early (February 2023) helped overcome financial disadvantages.

“I ran a very tight ship. We were efficient with it. We didn’t waste people’s money,” Richardson said. “We essentially accomplished what the Bonakdar campaign did for one-sixth of the price. So when people are looking for someone to responsibly handle their money in City Hall, I would point to that as strong evidence.”

Fresno County plans to update its results on Tuesday, March 12.

Fresno City Council District 6 Financials

Candidate Raised Spent
Roger Bonakdar $329,331 $128,442
Raj Sodhi-Layne $86,377 $37,792
Molly Fagundes-Johnston $58,544 $33,346
Nick Richardson $26,724 $23,338

2023 through Feb. 17, 2024; source: city of Fresno

Hurtado Concedes, Endorses Salas

During the campaign for Congressional District 22, candidate Melissa Hurtado was so offended by fellow Democrat Rudy Salas’s negative ad against her that she fought back.

Salas, D-Bakersfield, told voters that Hurtado no-showed on votes about reproductive freedom.

“Leave it to a man like Rudy Salas to lie about my record —  a woman’s record — on reproductive freedom. He should be ashamed,” Hurtado, D-Bakersfield, wrote on Feb. 13.

However, after Hurtado conceded the race on Thursday, she endorsed the candidate who blasted her.

“Today, I endorse Rudy Salas for Congress. Unity is crucial in tackling our collective challenges, and I know Rudy is prepared for the task,” Hurtado said in an email statement.

Incumbent David Valadao, R-Hanford, is set to face Salas in the November general election if the numbers hold.

Arias Holds Back on Plan to Uproot City Committees

For more than a year, Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias criticized how committee seats are filled. For most seats — like the planning commission — Mayor Jerry Dyer nominates a candidate, and the city council votes to confirm.

Seats like planning have an expiration date. But there is also a caveat in the city charter. Members of committees or commissions can serve even after a term expires until a successor is chosen.

Arias proposed a new rule at Thursday’s meeting that seats become vacant at expiration, and not beyond. Additionally, if the mayor waits longer than a year to fill the vacancy, the city council gets to decide.

Two of the seven planning commissioners are serving expired terms: Brad Hardie (term expired June 30, 2022), and Rev. DJ Criner (June 30, 2023). Haley Wagner’s term expires June 30, 2024.

Arias tabled his proposal, saying Dyer promised to make those appointments within 30 days. The councilmember said that Hardie had to “conflict out of two-thirds of the agenda items before him.”

The charter does give the city council the power to remove a board member with five votes.

Still, there may have been complications if Arias hadn’t pulled his item. Any change of the city charter needs to go to the voters, and cannot be changed unilaterally by a city council vote.

Hardie Responds

Brad Hardie (photo: Regency Property Management)
Brad Hardie

Hardie, president of Regency Property Management and commissioner since 2018, said he continues to serve effectively.

“I did have to recuse myself from two of the three items (on March 6). One of them was carried over from the previous meeting. Other than that, I have had to recuse very little, not enough to affect my ability to serve on the Planning Commission. Like anybody else in office, recusals do come up from time to time and I’ve invested personal resources to make sure I comply with all requirements,” Hardie said.

In the last six months, Hardie recused himself six times in 20 votes or 30% of the time. He also abstained on one vote and was absent for one meeting.

But Who Did the Other 92 Vote For?

Fresno City Councilmember Tyler Maxwell ran unopposed, winning his second term. That doesn’t mean he received 100%.

As of the latest count, Maxwell received all but 92 votes, or 97.91%. Those other votes went to a write-in candidate. However, since no write-in candidate qualified, those votes went for naught.

Fresno County Election Clerk James Kus said his office does not have a process to examine what names were written on the ballot if there is no qualified write-in candidate.

There is one registered voter in the city with the last name of “Write.” Maybe voters meant to cast ballots for him. However, that voter lives in a different council district.

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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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