Hur­tado still lead­ing in state Se­nate race

The Fresno Bee - - Front Page - BY ROBERT RO­DRIGUEZ rro­driguez@fres­nobee.com

Melissa Hur­tado, a health care advocate and po­lit­i­cal rookie, never thought she would run for Sanger City Coun­cil, let alone a state of­fice.

But the young Demo­crat ap­pears to be on a win­ning streak.

Hur­tado, who was elected to the coun­cil in 2016, is on her way to un­seat­ing farmer Andy Vi­dak as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Cal­i­for­nia’s 14th Se­nate District. Hur­tado is ahead of Vi­dak by slightly more than 3,300 votes in the lat­est tally.

Hur­tado is op­ti­mistic her lead will hold and that she will soon of­fi­cially rep­re­sent the district that in­cludes all of Kings County and parts of Fresno, Kern and Tu­lare coun­ties.

“I feel com­fort­able, and I’m at peace at where we are at in this elec­tion,” Hur­tado said Fri­day. “Se­na­tor Vi­dak is a friendly guy, and it is noth­ing per­sonal against him, but I think the vot­ers wanted change. They did not feel they were be­ing rep­re­sented. “

Hur­tado’s ap­par­ent vic­tory sur­prised more than a few in San Joaquin Val­ley pol­i­tics.

Al­though the district is heav­ily Demo­crat at 47 per­cent com­pared to 27 per­cent Repub­li­can, Vi­dak is well-liked. He won a spe­cial elec­tion for the 16th state Se­nate District seat in 2013 and then two terms in the 14th District. A cherry grower and cat­tle rancher, Vi­dak had broad-based sup­port from lo­cal

and statewide lead­ers in govern­ment, law en­force­ment and busi­ness groups.

But Hur­tado was a re­lent­less cam­paigner go­ing door to door and vis­it­ing many com­mu­ni­ties in the district. She cam­paigned on a plat­form of im­prov­ing ac­cess to health care, creat­ing more jobs and em­pha­siz­ing ca­reer tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion.

What made her vic­tory even more im­pres­sive is that Hur­tado had never run for of­fice be­fore join­ing the Sanger City Coun­cil in 2016.

‘IT WAS KIND OF SUR­PRIS­ING’

“Yeah, it was kind of sur­pris­ing,” said Coun­cil­man Eli On­tiveros. “We prob­a­bly dis­agree on things 90 per­cent of the time, but I have to com­mend her, she did a great job run­ning her cam­paign.”

Tyler Maxwell, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tral Val­ley Young Democrats, said that given the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, Hur­tado ap­pealed to vot­ers be­cause she doesn’t grand­stand or use rhetoric to get her point across.

“Hur­tado is very hum­ble, she is a nat­u­ral leader and was very easy to get be­hind,” Maxwell said.

As a health care advocate, who for­merly worked for Health Ac­cess Cal­i­for­nia, Hur­tado said she was moved by the chal­lenges peo­ple in her district face in try­ing to get health care and find­ing good jobs.

“I’d come across peo­ple who had lost hope of liv­ing a bet­ter life,” she said. “They didn’t be­lieve there were any more op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in the area or they were deal­ing with health is­sues like Val­ley fever.”

Hur­tado, who was raised in Sanger, moved back to the area to be closer to her fam­ily af­ter liv­ing in Sacra­mento for nine years. She said that it was af­ter she re­set­tled that she saw the in­equities that ex­isted in her com­mu­nity and her district.

SUP­PORTS TEM­PER­ANCE FLAT

She said she un­der­stands the needs of farm­ers in her district. She is a supporter of above-ground wa­ter stor­age, in­clud­ing build­ing Tem­per­ance Flat dam in eastern Fresno County.

“Wa­ter is extremely im­por­tant to the Cen­tral Val­ley and our lo­cal econ­omy,” she said. “There are a lot of peo­ple who are em­ployed in agri­cul­ture and it’s an im­por­tant part of our econ­omy.”

Melissa Hur­tado

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