California State Senate
This election season, three seats in the California State Senate, representing residents of Fresno and Madera Counties, are up for grabs.
What does a California State Senator do?
A state senator is one of 40 people elected by the community to serve in the California State Senate, the “upper house” of the legislature – meaning, they have more power.
Being a state senator is a full-time job. Legislators are paid $114,877 per year as a base salary. They serve four-year terms, and can be re-elected up to three times.
State senators write new laws, oversee and approve state budgets, and help residents in their districts (also known as constituents) access state resources or navigate state bureaucracy and red tape. They also confirm the governor’s appointments to state agencies and commissions.
In the Fresno and Madera area, state senators play an important role in getting state money for important local projects – like fixing the Friant-Kern Canal or keeping the Madera Community Hospital doors open – or helping get more state attention on an issue of local importance, like broadband access in rural communities.
Because California’s legislature is run by the Democrats, democratic senators typically have an easier time securing state money for local projects than their republican counterparts.
Who is running for State Senate to represent Fresno and Madera Counties?
There are three state senate districts that include parts of Fresno and Madera Counties. Each district includes around a million people.
Think you know who your state senate representative is? Thanks to redistricting, you might want to check again, as the boundaries changed pretty dramatically.
Senate District 12
About the District
Senate District 12 includes a large stretch of the central and southern San Joaquin Valley, from northeast Fresno and Clovis, to Visalia, to southern Kern County, and many communities between. It also includes most of the foothill and mountain communities of the central and southern Sierra Nevadas. The district is over 61% white, with just 25% of adults identifying as Latino.
Shannon Grove, a republican, is currently serving in the state senate and is running to represent this district. She’s being challenged by democrat Susanne Gundy.
About the Candidates
Shannon Grove, a republican, is running for another term in the state senate.
Grove, an army veteran from Kern County, is currently serving as the state senator for District 16, which covered Kern and Tulare counties prior to the redistricting process.
In 2021, Grove was the vice chair of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and a member of the Natural Resources and Water Committee, Senate Rules Committee, Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and Senate Health Committee. In 2021, Grove was replaced as the leader of the California Senate Republicans two days after tweeting, then deleting, false claims about the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2015, Grove made comments that suggested that Texas’ drought ended because the Governor signed anti-abortion legislation.
Grove has an 80% approval rating with the California Chamber of Commerce but only a 3% approval rating with the California Environmental Voters. Grove told the Bakersfield Californian that efforts to transition away from a fossil-fuel economy are “punitive and anti-worker”. She also opposed efforts to more intensely regulate and improve worker conditions in the fast food industry.
Susanne Gundy, a democrat from Tulare, is running for State Senate, District 12. Gundy is a former high school teacher and retired public health educator for Tulare County. She also owns Gundy Rentals.
Gundy has lived in Tulare County for more than 45 years. She has been a member of the Tulare County Democratic Central Committee, Stonewall and Visalia Democratic Clubs, World Wildlife Federation, ACLU, AARP, Greenpeace, National Resources Defense Council, 350.org, NPR, and PBS, according to Ballotpedia.
Gundy told the Bakersfield Californian that she would prioritize a continued shift to clean energy and solar farms. Her priorities also include rural healthcare, education, climate change and increasing grants to local jurisdictions for low-income housing and shelters. She had previously ran unsuccessfully for seats on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and the Visalia City Council.
- Congressman Kevin McCarthy
- Assemblymember Jim Patterson
- Retired Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims
- Fresno County Supervisors Buddy Mendes, Nathan Magsig and Steve Brandau
- California Democratic Party
Shannon Grove is the only candidate who has filed a committee to accept campaign donations. She has raised over $776,000.
Click on the graphic below to explore more of the donations.
Senate District 14
About the District
Senate District 14 includes the majority of south and west Fresno as well as the cities of Madera, Merced, Sanger, Selma, Fowler, and the majority of farmworker communities on the westside of the valley. The district is majority-Latino.
Anna Caballero, a democrat who is currently serving in the state senate, is running against Amnon Shor, a republican, businessman, and rabbi.
About the Candidates
Anna Caballero currently serves as state senator for District 12, representing the Salinas Valley and parts of the San Joaquin Valley.
Caballero was raised by copper miners in Arizona before moving to California. After graduating from UC San Diego and UCLA School of Law, she worked for California Rural Legal Assistance representing farmworkers. Later, she founded her own firm with two partners, offering services in Salinas and Hollister, before venturing into politics.
Her first campaign was for the Salinas City Council in 1991; she was elected the city’s first female mayor in 1998. In 2006, Caballero jumped from local to state government and became the first elected Latina to represent Assembly District 28. In 2011, she was appointed by former governor Jerry Brown to serve as the secretary of the state’s Business Services, Consumers, and Housing Agency.
Caballero serves on the Senate Agriculture, Banking and Financial Institutions, Budget and Fiscal Review, Judiciary, and Housing Committees. She has a 70% approval rating with the California Chamber of Commerce and a 41% approval rating with California Environmental Voters.
She has led legislative efforts to increase financial assistance to small business owners, allow developers to build housing in commercial shopping centers, protect renters from eviction, and support purchasing of locally grown produce. She is politically moderate when it comes to issues such as water, where she has advocated for restraint, despite calls by water justice advocates to dismantle California’s water rights system.
Amnon Shor, an Israeli immigrant and rabbi, is running for Senate District 14. Shor moved to Fresno in 1980 and owns an Arabian horse ranch.
Shor’s priorities include providing water for agriculture businesses, fighting against abortion accesss and supporting law enforcement.
- Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula
- Dolores Huerta, civil and labor rights leader
- Fresno City Council members Miguel Arias, Nelson Esparza, Tyler Maxwell, and Esmeralda Soria
- Madera Mayor Santos Garcia
- Fresno Bee Editorial Board
- California Pro Life PAC
Anna Caballero has a significant fundraising advantage over Amnon Shor, raising nearly $974,000 compared to Shor’s $25,000.
Click on the figure below to learn more about the donors.
Senate District 16
About the District
Senate District 16 includes much of the south valley, from Kingsburg and Dinuba to the very north all the way down to Bakersfield. The district also includes north Visalia, Hanford, Porterville, Tulare, Corcoran, Wasco, Lindsay, Tipton, and Delano. The district is majority-Latino.
About the Candidates
Melissa Hurtado is the current state assembly representative for District 14, which stretches across the southern central valley from Fresno to Bakersfield. She received her political science degree from Sacramento State, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.
She served on the Sanger City Council before becoming, at age 30, the youngest woman elected to the California State Senate in 2018, according to her official website.
After the recent redistricting changes, no incumbent was “kneecapped” more by district lines changing than Hurtado, Vida en el Valle reported.
Hurtado has made a name for herself in Sacramento as a business-friendly democrat, leading initiatives to fight for more water for the agriculture industry in the valley, including securing funding for fixes to the Friant-Kern Canal.
She has not shied away from controversy: at one point, she was proposing to get rid of the State Water Board – California’s main water regulator. Her proposal to set up a pilot income program for farmworkers who have lost wages due to drought also faced opposition from both labor leaders and the Governor.
Hurtado has a 70% approval rating from the California Chamber of Commerce and a 39% approval rating from California Environmental Voters.
David Shepard is a first generation college graduate and fourth generation farmer in Porterville running for Senate District 16. His paternal grandfather immigrated to California from Mexico, Vida en el Valle reports.
In an interview with the Hanford Sentinel, he shared that his priorities include providing water access to farmers and oil access to drillers, supporting law enforcement and reducing inflation.
- US Senator Alex Padilla
- Congressman Jim Costa
- California Police Chiefs Association
- California Nurses Association
- California Teachers Association
- The Bakersfield Californian
- Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association PAC
- Kern County Law Enforcement Association
- Tulare County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 428
Melissa Hurtado has a significant fundraising lead over David Shepard, with over $2.4 million raised, compared to Shepard’s $434,000.