Of all the various issues plaguing the constituents of California’s Central Valley – from high gas prices to water shortages – perhaps a more personal issue will define the race for the 32nd Assembly District: protection of the children from predators.
When Republican nominee Justin Mendes declared his candidacy for the seat that incumbent Democrat Rudy Salas has held since 2012, he stated that it was one single issue in particular that made him finally decide to run. He said that he and his wife discovered that a registered sex offender was living next door to the daycare that their two young sons were attending.
When they called Salas’ office to ask if some sort of legislative fix could be made to the state’s Megan’s Law in order to combat this issue, the staffer responded that “changes to the law were not something [Salas] wanted to pursue.” They even suggested that the daycare should simply move to another location.
This failure on Salas’s part to actively defend the children of the district was what motivated Mendes to run for the seat himself. Throughout the primary, Mendes also pushed other issues that proved how much Salas no longer represented the district’s best interests, such as his support of the “cap-and-trade” bill (AB 398), or his vote for the infamous “sanctuary state” law (SB 54.
But the daycare issue remained at the heart of the campaign, as it touched upon that most personal obligation that every parent holds near and dear to their heart. If someone will not protect the children, the most vulnerable among us, how can they protect anyone else?
And the importance of this issue proved itself in the immediate aftermath of the primary. For the first few weeks after June 5, it appeared as if Mendes had won the primary handily, with about 52% to Salas’s 48%. Although a voting machine error was eventually revealed and ended up giving Salas a narrow margin of 50.4% to Mendes’s 49.6%, the initial primary performance proved what a powerful issue the daycare debacle truly was.
As such, Salas almost immediately took steps to address the issue, but did so in a way that reeked of political convenience, meant to gain more favor with the voters rather than actually fix the problem. Salas completely gutted a previous bill of his, AB 514, and abandoned the bill’s original purpose in favor of combating the issue that had cost him the primary.
The bill, first introduced in February of 2017 and amended in March and April of that year, originally dealt with clarification of terminology regarding pharmaceuticals, before it was then expanded to address the broader issue of the handling of medical waste.
However, just nine days after his primary loss, Salas completely rewrote the bill to instead address the issue of convicted sex offenders living within a certain distance of child daycare facilities. The overall length was reduced dramatically into a very simple, quick fix regarding the issue that ultimately carried Mendes to an initial primary victory.
Subsequently, since the reveal of the voting machine error and the fact that Salas actually narrowly came out on top, no further action has been taken on the newly-gutted AB 514. If Salas does indeed drop the issue now that he has been revealed as the winner of the primary, it will only be further proof that these actions are based around whether or not it benefits his chances of re-election.