Three months ago, Democratic state senator Michael Rubio surprised his party by resigning midway through his first term to take a job in Chevron’s lobbying shop. The 35-year-old moderate from Bakersfield had just been elevated to head the senate Environmental Quality Committee and was expected to propose regulatory reforms the week he tendered his resignation.
While Mr. Rubio cited personal issues for leaving the legislature—he has a daughter with special needs—another likely concern was the realization that his career and clout in Sacramento were limited by who he was and where he came from. Unlike his coastal counterparts, Mr. Rubio supported exploiting the rich hydrocarbon and shale deposits that underlie his Valley district.
The oil industry, he told a local TV station in February, shared his view “that we need to provide an opportunity for people to go to work and provide for their families”—a statement that borders on heresy in California’s Democratic Party….
Mr. Vidak’s campaign theme was the bifurcation of California: the coastal liberal elites versus the Valley folks. “We’re getting left behind here,” he says. “They don’t view us as important.”
Case in point: The unemployment rate in Mr. Vidak’s district is about 15%—two to three times as high as in the Bay Area—and exceeds 30% in some communities. The culprit? “Our water has been cut off by the far left,” he says.
Regulations to protect smelt from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water pumps have created a California water shortage, which is particularly acute in the Valley. This year farmers south of the delta will receive only 20% of their contracted allocations. An irking irony is that the smelt’s biggest killer is the wastewater that Sacramento dumps into the delta.
“It’s fish versus farmer,” he says, and liberals are siding with the fish.
Other species-protection policies have removed thousands of acres of land from production, endangering the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers. Meanwhile, California’s bullet train, beloved by liberals, will slash through Mr. Vidak’s district and raze hundreds of farms, homes and businesses.
“We don’t have clean drinking water in some areas of our district,” Mr. Vidak says. “And they want to build an $80 billion bullet train!”