Merced County Times Newspaper
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Campaign talk starts to simmer months before March 5 primary


By John Miller & Jonathan Whitaker

And so it begins.

Local voters are beginning to hear the familiar sounds of political rhetoric as local and regional candidates start to gear up for California’s Presidential Primary Election on March 5.

State Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria, a Fresno Democrat, announced her re-election bid this week. And it was only a week ago when Eric Early, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, visited Merced for the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Elks Lodge.

“I am humbled by the trust and support of the people of District 27,” Soria stated in her release to the media. “Together, we have made a real difference in the everyday lives of thousands of Central Valley residents.  This is only the beginning. There is so much more to do, and we are just getting started.”

Nothing could be more true than that last line. Soria was first elected to represent District 27 (which includes Merced County) just last year when she beat former Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin in the general election. She started her two-year term at the start of this very year.

That’s the rub for some representatives. They have to start campaigning again soon after their elected term begins. It’s the same for Congressman John Duarte, the Republican from Modesto who narrowly prevailed over Adam Gray of Merced last year by just a few hundred votes. But Duarte’s 13th District (which includes Merced County) will soon be the focus of another local election — perhaps another nail-biter. Only three months after last year’s election, Gray filed FEC papers for a rematch against Duarte. There’s been no official announcement, but Gray continues to appear at high-profile local events, and at one of them, he told the Times he looks forward to the upcoming 2024 presidential election, and a higher voter turnout that would favor his candidacy.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Merced County united for the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner fundraiser last Thursday. The Elks Lodge in Merced was filled to capacity with enthusiastic supporters. The event was hosted by the Merced County Republican Assembly — a local group that has stepped up efforts for local candidates and GOP contenders in recent times.

In a Democrat-controlled California, Republicans face an uphill battle in many races.

It was 32 years ago when Dianne Feinstein visited Merced and announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. She ended up winning, and then being continuously re-elected — serving for over three decades. However, at the age of 90, Feinstein has finally said she will not seek re-election.

So it was Senate candidate Eric Early, a Republican, making his case to the GOP in Merced that it’s time for the other side to have a voice in Washington.

“America is the greatest country in human history. Period. And we are under attack,” Early told the gathering. “These barbarians have broken through the gates. We didn’t know this was happening. We said ‘I didn’t know it was happening.’ A lot of conservatives didn’t realize that there were a couple thousand people out there who hated our country so bad that they would just spend every waking moment, growing and gathering, figuring out a way to destroy this country, and introduce a Marxist form of government.”

Early went on to say that after the “Whole George Floyd situation brought it out to the surface” that there has been “a great reawakening going on” among conservatives.

“We are clearly in a battle of good versus evil in this country, and they’re the evil ones. They’re everywhere. They’ve done the long march through the institutions. They control all the levers of power in this country right now. They control the Department of Justice. They control the FBI. They control the IRS. They control the media. They control the schools. They control the Oval Office, and they control this permanent government, and the deep state.”

Early went on to say that as an America First candidate who supports Donald Trump, and views the “Antifa” ideology as an American terrorist organization, he felt the need to run because the American public was being lied to by those in office. The candidate espoused the importance of secure boarders, the free market, limited government and the importance of protecting the American Dream.

As for Assemblywoman Soria, her campaign staff appears confident. Perhaps the freshman will face no challenge in the Primary. She has raised more than $650,000 in the first report leading up to the March primary. They also say Soria has delivered on key issues and legislation for the 27th District, including:

  • Securing $300 Million to help reopen Madera Community Hospital to protect health care access for hundreds of thousands of Madera County residents.
  • Securing over $140 million in funding for the construction of police stations, emergency operations centers, housing, and community centers.
  • Delivering $120 million for flood recovery.
  • Protecting Veterans and their surviving spouses from unfair taxation on their military pensions.


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