Bakersfield incumbent faces Hanford competitor for 32nd District Assemblyman

Violetta Trujillo, Contributing Reporter

  On Tuesday March 3, 2020, the incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) for the 32nd Assembly District of California is being challenged by Republican Todd Cotta (D-Hanford) this primary.   

  The 32nd Assembly District of California stretches from Bakersfield to Hanford, covering all of Kings County and less than half of Kern County.  

  Cotta has a background in law enforcement, having served for 20 years as a deputy sheriff in Kings County. He also served as water supervisor for the Laguna Irrigation District for 12 years and is currently a small-business owner. Cotta owns the Kings Gun Center, a firearm facility that offers services such as concealed carry weapon training.  

  “My background in law enforcement has given me insight in law and I dealt with the law first-hand as a deputy sheriff for 20 years. As a water supervisor, I worked with growers and it gave me experience as an administrator to help guide their irrigation needs and as a small-business owner, I’ve dealt with state regulations,” said Cotta.  

  Assemblyman Salas has been serving the 32nd Assembly District since 2012. In Kern County, Rudy Salas is well-known, with his blue and yellow campaign signs that say “Rudy Salas for Assembly” on every other street corner.  

  In 2018, Assemblyman Salas beat his opponent, Justin Mendes, in the general election by 13.4%.  

  “The voters of the 32nd Assembly District have continued to re-elect me because they know I am a champion for working-class families in the Valley and that I will fight to make their voices heard in Sacramento,” Assemblyman Salas said in an email.  

  Last year, Assemblyman Salas authorized Assembly Bill 203, which increased protections for construction workers against Valley Fever. He also secured $10 million for Valley Fever research.  

  This year, a few plans are to authorize new legislation that will help protect children from lead poisoning, expand health care in rural areas, and bring college textbook costs down.  

  “You know his name here, even if you don’t really keep up with him, you know who he is for sure,” said Kayla Culberson, an English student in her senior year at CSU, Bakersfield.  

  Recently, Assemblyman Salas secured $650 million from the state budget to battle homelessness in the Valley. The Kern County Homeless Collaborative reports over 1,000 people being counted in shelters and streets in January.  

  “We need to continue to invest in housing, shelters, and mental health treatment,” said Salas in an email.  

  Assemblyman Salas mentioned he plans to continue working with local cities, county officials, and nonprofits to apply for grant funding and will support their efforts to fund local programs, build more affordable housing, and address mental health issues in our communities.  

  “I think Salas is definitely taking a step in the right direction because homelessness is a huge problem here, but I would want his funding to help homeless people,” said Culberson.  

  Cotta agrees with the severity of the rising homeless crisis in the Central Valley and wants to fight it with a different approach.  

  “It’s not a housing crisis, it’s a drug rehabilitation and mental health crisis,” said Cotta.  

  Some may point to the rising housing crisis in California, where the average home costs $500,000. Cotta rejects this idea and says California has always been expensive.  

  “I’m 50 years old and I can tell you personally, no time in my life have homes been affordable – ever,” says Cotta.  

  Cotta says the homeless crisis is a result of legislative bills such as Assembly Bill 109, which allows people convicted of less serious felonies to serve in local county jails and possibly receive felony probation.  

  Cotta also points to Proposition 47, which reclassified certain crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies – the personal use of most illegal drugs is one crime that has been reclassified.  

  “It’s a decriminalizing issue. If we reimplement drug laws that are firm and they get clean, this trend can go backwards,” said Cotta.  

  Cotta says homeless people can be spotted daily near his small business. He suggests that issues such as homelessness may be a reason that California residents decide to leave the state.  

  An article from ABC News reports nearly 700,000 people leaving California in 2018. From 2011 to 2018, there was an increase of 131,000 people leaving the state.  

  Another article from The New York Times reports nearly half of all homeless people in the United States live in California.  

  “I love California. I love the farming in California. I love the beaches, the people, and it saddens me to see people leave. I’m going to try to do my best to stop that from happening,” said Cotta.  

  Despite the issues within the Golden State and the trend of residents leaving, Cotta still finds it to be the best state in the United States.  

  “There is not a better state. You have the ocean, mountains, deserts, and valley here,” said Cotta.