It’s election season and the seat for Kern County’s 4th Supervisor District is up for grabs again for the second time in four years.
David Couch, who is the seat’s incumbent, was almost removed from the seat earlier than expected in 2018 when the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund won a lawsuit against Kern County stating the old district lines did not provide an accurate representation of voting power for the Hispanic community.
The judge ruled in favor of MALDEF, forcing Kern County to redraw the district lines and hold an election to figure out who would fill the seat of the now redrawn district.
Delano city council member Grace Vallejo and Jose Gonzalez, president of the greater Lamont chamber of commerce and area manager of Self-Help Federal Credit Union ran against Couch. However, neither candidate received the votes to replace the incumbent.
Couch held onto the seat during the midterm election with 47 percent of the vote, allowing him to complete his third term as supervisor.
This year, neither Vallejo nor Gonzalez are running. Instead, Emilio J. Huerta of Delano is running against Couch.
According to his campaign website, Huerta is a civil rights attorney who has been serving the community for 30 years. He has served as cooperate counsel for Omni Family Health, general counsel for the Cesar Chavez Foundation, and chair for Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance and Self-Help Federal Credit Union.
Huerta is a CSUB alumnus, receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science, along with a Juris doctorate degree from Santa Clara University of Law School.
According to Couch’s campaign website, Couch has over 25 years of experience in financial services, specialized in high net worth retirement and estate plans in the energy industry.
Couch has been serving as the fourth district supervisor for the last seven years, with a combined total of eighteen years working at the county and city level.
Controversies have arisen on each side of the race leading up to the 2020 election.
Delano city councilmen Joe Aguirre filed a petition with Kern County Superior Court in early January to have Emilio J. Huerta’s name removed from the ballot stating to KGET, “My whole intention was to bring light to the fact that we have a candidate that’s running in the 4th district that lives in the 3rd district.”
Sworn statements from neighbors of where Huerta says he resides in the fourth district were brought to court along with a written and signed statement from Huerta’s alleged roommate Ricardo Delgado which said, “During the last two years, I have not made any arrangements to allow another person to live in my house.”
The judge rejected the petition stating that it was too close to the election to intervene, and that if Huerta were to win, the challenge could still continue onto Superior Court.
“To question someone’s residency is super crazy to me. Especially when they’re running in an election,” said Paula Dominguez, a Lamont and fourth district resident.
On Feb. 20, Rodriguez and Associates requested a criminal investigation be done on Supervisor David Couch, and others, for filing false documents used as evidence to support the claim that Huerta does not live in the fourth district.
“It is a crime to submit fraudulent documents,” Huerta said on Feb. 27.
Huerta suggested that Couch and his associates could have possibly submitted these false documents to have him removed from the ballot to keep the fourth district seat and emphasized that the reason the fourth district was redone, was to empower the Latinx vote.
After the Kern County Supervisor’s meeting on Feb. 25, Couch responded, “I think this is a last-minute attempt by a desperate campaign.”