Our View: State legislative seats will be filled in Nov. 8 election

Read the original article on the Bakersfield Californian's website by clicking here.


By The Bakersfield Californian Editorial Board


35th Assembly – Jasmeet Bains


The election in November to fill the 35th Assembly District seat is among California’s most interesting. The two competing candidates are both Democrats — Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez and local family physician Jasmeet Bains.


Surprising political observers and the two candidates themselves, Perez, who has been an elected supervisor for nearly a decade, barely finished in first place in the June primary ahead of political newcomer Bains. Perez had 50.5 percent of the vote to Bains’ 49.5.


Perez blames her anemic primary finish on low voter turnout. She says she now needs to reach out more to Republican and independent voters.


But likely the real reason is that voters are just plain tired of the controversies that have swirled around Perez since she was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2012.


Perez was born in Bakersfield, graduated from UC Santa Barbara and earned a law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana. She served on the state Senate staff of Bakersfield Democrat Michael Rubio, on the Kern County Planning Commission and as a Kern County deputy public defender before being elected to the Board of Supervisors.


Shortly after being sworn in as supervisor, her former boss, Rubio, suddenly resigned his state Senate seat to work for Chevron, as a government consultant. Perez declared her candidacy to replace him. But she lost the Senate race to Hanford Republican Andy Vidak.


That same year, Perez reported she had failed to disclose a $29,000 debt from her campaign to unseat then Supervisor Karen Goh in the 2012 election. In amending her disclosure form, she blamed her campaign consultant Richie Ross for the error.


She won reelection to represent supervisorial District 5 in 2016 and 2020. Her present term expires in 2024.


In 2017, Perez became embroiled in a controversy regarding consulting work done by her husband, Fernando Jara. Cannabis growers, who were seeking changes in the county’s land-use ordinances, paid Jara to help arrange meetings with local public officials. Perez failed to report the income and her potential conflict of interest, when she voted as a county supervisor in support of the growers.


Then-District Attorney Lisa Green in 2018 charged Perez with two misdemeanor criminal violations of the state conflict of interest laws, alleging she attempted to use her official position to influence a governmental decision; and for failing to report Jara’s consulting income on state-required disclosure forms.


The charges carried maximum jail sentences, if convicted, of up to six months each and additional punishment of banning her from running for an elected office for four years. Perez reached an agreement with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office that called for the charges to be dismissed if Perez met certain criteria, which she did. The case is believed to be the first in which a Kern County supervisor was criminally charged for violating state conflict of interest laws.


Although Perez denied wrongdoing, eventually Perez, county officials and the state Fair Political Practices Commission settled the case in 2020, with Perez agreeing “to the factual basis for the misdemeanor charges.”


Perez agreed to pay $30,000 in penalties — the amount estimated to be Jara’s payment for his work promoting cannabis — and a fine of $4,000 to the FPPC. She also agreed to perform 100 hours of community service; complete an in-person government ethics course; and amend her public disclosure forms to include Jara’s income. To read details of the case and settlement, go to the FPPC website at fppc.ca.gov/.


Challenger Jasmeet Bains is a native of Delano and medical director at Bakersfield Recovery Services, a nonprofit that treats adults suffering from addiction. She also helps out with her family business, previously Taft Chevrolet and now Turlock Chrysler.


She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Illinois Institute of Technology and a doctor of medicine from American University of Antigua.


After medical school, she returned home to Kern County to complete a residency at Clinica Sierra Vista. She says she was motivated to run for Assembly after witnessing during the pandemic how limited access to medical care is in the Central Valley.


“I love being a doctor. This decision to enter politics was not an easy one for me at all. It’s not an easy one for physicians,” Bains told The Californian, noting there are few physicians in the Legislature.


“But the problem is we need them, especially after the realization of COVID-19,” she said. “If I want to be the physician that I always dreamed of being, I need to make sure that we have the correct legislation in place.”

Bains was appointed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission and was awarded the 2019 Hero of Family Medicine by the California Academy of Family Physicians.


Last year, she received the Beautiful Bakersfield Award for Health from the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. She was honored for organizing Narcan training and free distribution, volunteering at Global Family Home, publishing research on Valley fever and COVID-19, and serving as board president of the Kern Regional Center.


If elected to the Assembly, Bains said her interest will not be limited to health. Her other priorities will be homelessness, water infrastructure and air quality. Vote for Jasmeet Bains.

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