Assemblyman Devon Mathis receives first challenger for 2020 election
TULARE COUNTY – In the day and age of social media and wall-to-wall news coverage, politics is never far away. And with the 2020 election 18 months from now, challengers are already throwing their hats in the ring. At least that’s the case for the 26th Assembly District.
Democratic challenger Drew Phelps, began his campaign to unseat incumbent Devon Mathis with a kick-off rally on April 27 at VIP Pizza in Tulare. Current mayor of Tulare and 2018 challenger Jose Sigala threw his name behind the candidate at the rally late last month.
“I’m running because, simply put, we deserve better. We deserve solutions that are tailored to Valley interests and we need them soon.” Phelps stated. “Without immediate leadership on local issues such as water quality and quantity, healthcare access and economic opportunity right here in our community – our family and neighbors in the 26th Assembly District will struggle to achieve their full potential.”
According to Phelps’ website, drewphelps.com, in 2015 he actively led and organized residents of the district with Citizens for Hospital Accountability, whose members worked tirelessly to save the Tulare Regional Medical Center, which was dealing with significant financial, legal, and leadership issues. As a result of the 2-year long campaign, Citizens for Hospital Accountability succeeded in defeating an unwise bond measure that would have cost the county millions.
His site also notes that he served as director of grant oversight with the Manuel Torrez Family Resource Center, bringing in funding for the Center’s Healthy Families, Happy Kids initiative.
“Professionally, Drew works in land use and project management for Granville Homes, a Valley-based residential development company that builds homes for local working and middle-class families, including multi-family infill projects,” his campaign website notes.
Phelps was born and raised in the district, attending elementary school at St. Aloysius in Tulare. Since he was a child, Phelps has engaged with the community around him, participating in youth programs and sports, academic competitions, and volunteering with local nonprofits and his church. In high school, Phelps maintained his commitment to serving others, winning the City of Tulare’s “Volunteer of the Year” award for his work with the Tulare Senior Center and Meals on Wheels, among other organizations.
Phelps earned his B.A. in Political Studies from Pitzer College and his M.A. in American Politics from Claremont Graduate University. A strong believer in reaching across the aisle and working on issues of local importance, Phelps interned for several Valley elected officials during his time in school, including former Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, Congressman Jim Costa, and former Senator Andy Vidak.
“The campaign we are building offers an alternative — new ideas focused on our district and proven experience to get things done,” Phelps said.
Mathis cruised to his third term last year when he defeated Sigala by more than 17,000 votes, making up 57.9 percent of the vote. Many thought he was going to be primaried in the June 5, 2018 election when former Visalia mayor Warren Gubler entered the race. However, Kern County native Jack Lavers split the Republican vote all but handing Mathis 30.3 percent of the vote, and pushing Sigala into second place with 29.8 percent.
In 2016 Mathis faired far better against Democrat, and now Farmersville city councilman, Ruben Macareno. Mathis crushed Macareno 63.31 percent to 36.69 percent. Mathis won his first term in a Republican versus Republican showdown against Woodlake mayor Rudy Mendoza in a tight 2014 race. Mendoza, who took the lead in the primary gathered 40.3 percent of the vote to Mathis’ 20.5 percent, suffered defeat despite being the presumed winner.
Mathis serves as vice chair on the Assembly Agriculture Committee, but serves a member on several other committees including: Budget; California-Mexico Bi-National Affairs; Fairs, Allocation, and Classification; Select Committee on Veteran Employment and Education; Subcommittee 1 on Health and Human Services; Transportation; Veteran Affairs; Water, Parks and Wildlife.