While Washington Republicans concentrate on symbolic top-down “outreach” efforts, a California state senate race may actually provide a better roadmap for how Republicans can win in districts dominated by Democrats and minorities.
As the Wall Street Journal noted, Republican farmer Andy Vidak (second from right, above) appeared to have defeated a Latina Democrat for a seat in California’s 16th state senate district last week “in a gerrymandered district that was 60% Hispanic and in which Democrats boasted a 22-point registration advantage.”
Vidak’s opponent, Leticia Perez, had initially conceded when Vidak had 52% of the vote, but it looks like Vidak and Perez will battle in a July 23 runoff because Vidak looks like he has fallen a couple hundred votes shy of staying above the 50% mark.
Nevertheless, Vidak still greatly over-performed given that the Democrat who resigned his seat won in 2010 by a 21-point margin and state Democrats thought Perez, with her heritage and support of liberal unions and interest groups, would be a shoo-in to replace him.
Not so fast.
Coastal elites in California have decimated California’s Central Valley and hurt the region’s farmers–of all races–by cutting off much of the water supply to protect an obscure fish that is of concern to environmentalists.
And Vidak, a working class candidate, resonated with working class Hispanics in the district who also saw how coastal California elites were not putting their bread-and-butter interests first.
As the Journal notes, local farmers and businesses recruited Vidak, a middle-aged, third-generation Valley farmer described as “more salt-of-the-earth than many of his new compatriots in Sacramento.”
His campaign theme was essentially “the bifurcation of California: the coastal liberal elites versus the Valley folks.”
“We’re getting left behind here,” he said. “They don’t view us as important.”
Vidak blames the district’s 15% unemployment rate (the unemployment rate is as high as 30% in some communities in the district), on the far-left environmentalists that have cut off water to the Central Valley to protect smelt from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
“It’s fish versus farmer,” Vidak said, noting that liberals are siding with the fish by only allowing farmers to receive 20% of their water allocation. “Our water has been cut off by the far left.”
Furthermore, Perez could not win overwhelmingly just because of her race, as Democrats in the district punished her for supporting the liberal policies that run counter to their interests–like California’s bullet train that will slash through the district and “raze hundreds of farms, homes and businesses.”
“We don’t have clean drinking water in some areas of our district,” Vidak said. “And they want to build an $80 billion bullet train!”
As the Journal notes, Perez, his opponent, was one of those liberals who “endorsed the bullet train ‘as the biggest jobs plan in California history.'”
Even though Perez raised twice as much money as Vidak (90% of her donations came from outside the district), she “appeared out of touch with Valley voters’ values and concerns.”