Pink Wave ripples through local races
One-third of candidates in Tulare County elections were women, following a national trend of female candidates
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
TULARE COUNTY – The Blue Wave of Democratic candidates regaining control of Congress did not break the way it was projected to early on. But there was no denying the Pink Wave that sent 117 women on both sides of the aisle to the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and governorships across the country.
Ripples of the wave of female candidates could be seen in Tulare County’s elections as well. One-third of all candidates on the Tulare County ballot were women, and while it’s too early to call many races, many women have or will be announced winners by the time the election is certified in the next month.
In one of the biggest surprises of election night locally, Melissa Hurtado finished election night with more than 50% of the vote and a 4,000-vote lead against incumbent Andy Vidak for the State Senate 14th District. Hurtado fared much better than fellow Democrat Luis Chavez who Vidak defeated with 54% of the vote in 2014. She will likely join another Valley women in the State Senate. In the race for the 16th District, two women were vying to replace a woman on the State Senate. Republican Shannon Grove handily defeated Democrat Ruth Musser-Lopez with nearly two-thirds of the vote. Grove will replace Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) who was termed out after eight years in office.
Eleven women ran in city council races across the county. Exeter Mayor Teresa Boyce was challenged by Melanie Morton in an all female race that will keep half of the council members women. Boyce was leading with nearly 53% of the vote as of press time. In Farmersville, Tina Hernandez was poised to unseat incumbent Matt Sisk on the city council but the race is too close to call with just four votes separating them. In Lindsay, two female challengers may unseat two incumbent men.
Yolanda Flores has already ensured that half of the council will be women with 30% of the vote. Rosaena Sanchez is leading both men with 24.79% of the vote for the remaining seat. If Sanchez wins, the two will join Pam Kimball and Laura Soria on the council with a 4-1 female to male ratio. And while Merritt Wiseman didn’t win in Visalia, she certainly offered a different perspective from the current all-male council.
Fifteen women were leading in their races to be elected to local school boards. The county’s largest school district, Visalia Unified, had four seats up for election to its seven-member board, and three of them might be filled by women. Walta Gamoian was leading in the race for Trustee Area 1, Joy Naylor was leading in Area 3 and Megan Casebeer was a close second in Area 5. If all three are elected they will join Lucia Vazquez, representing Area 6, on a board that will be mostly women. In a three-way race for Woodlake Unified, every candidate was a woman with longtime involvement in the community. Incumbent Helen Renteria was trailing both challengers Donna Fraser and Armida Martinez for the Area B seat on the school board.