HANFORD — Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle is running against state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford.

“Let’s just say that I’ve spent the last couple of months talking to elected leaders,” Valle said. “I’m happy to report that my base is pretty supportive.”

Vidak, a Hanford cherry farmer, won a high-profile victory against Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez in July 2013 to finish out the term of Michael Rubio, who resigned in March. Rubio’s term ends in 2014, which means Vidak has to go through the election grind again this year.

Valle briefly considered taking a shot at Rubio’s vacant seat in March, but ultimately decided against it. At the time, he said that “there is a lot left to be done in Kings County, and I want to focus on my work here.”

Valle’s term as supervisor ends in 2016.

Valle said he’s tested the waters this time around and gotten a thumbs-up from both family members and his support base to aim for Sacramento.

“I’ve talked to my constituents,” he said. “I’ve taken my time, trying to be wise with this decision.”

Valle, like Vidak, is against the current high-speed rail project that would cut through Kings County farmland. Valle has also been active as a member of the Latino Water Coalition pushing for more water for agriculture.

So far, so similar. But Valle believes he has more experience with drought issues and high-speed rail than Vidak.

“These are positions that I’ve been known for years to roll up my sleeves and work on,” he said. “I feel like I would be in a better position as a senator to fight for and reflect those values.”

“Why the heck is he running against me?” said Vidak. “I live this stuff. I farm on the east and west sides of the Valley. Nobody’s got more credibility than me on water.”

Valle isn’t the first Democrat in the race. Luis Chavez, a Fresno Union School District trustee, announced his candidacy in November.

Democrats are still smarting from the Perez loss, which happened even though the Democratic Party enjoyed 22-percentage point voter registration advantage. Perez won in the Fresno County and Kern County portions of the district, but was swamped by Vidak’s overwhelming victory in Kings, where he got 74.8 percent of the vote.

Because he’s from Kings too, Valle thinks he can slice heavily into Vidak’s winning margin on his home turf.

“I don’t think Vidak would get 75 percent against me,” Valle said. “I think for a lot of supporters of Andy Vidak, I would ask them to take the time to consider my candidacy.”

Taking a page out of Perez’s playbook, Valle also thinks voters will pick him because he’d be a part of a Democratic supermajority.

“At the end of the day, people know that as a senator, I can actually pass legislation,” he said. “[Vidak’s] not going to be able to pass legislation with a Democratic majority.”

Vidak says he’ll introduce a bill in January to put high-speed rail back on the ballot. He tried to do it through a procedural maneuver in September, but it was shot down on a party-line vote.

“I’m just doing my job,” he said. “I’ll be back up there in January. Obviously, we’re fighting for water. We’re just working hard.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2432 and at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @SethN_HS.

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