Local candidates gear up for June 5 voting with open forum at Tachi Hotel

By Ed Martin, Editor
Local candidates gear up for June 5 voting with open forum at Tachi Hotel

The Kings County election season may be heating up. On Wednesday, about 100 or so business leaders and others attended the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Tachi Hotel and Casino where they heard from a myriad of candidates running for local offices.

The election day is on June 5.

Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes
Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes

According to Lemoore Chamber Executive Director Amy Ward, only those candidates whose positions directly impacted local businesses were invited.

The only candidates not to attend were Robert Garcia, a candidate for District 3 County Board of Supervisors and Greg Strickland, trying to get his old job back from Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes.

After most attendees finished off their lunch of enchiladas, beans, rice, and salad, Kings County District 1 Supervisor Joe Neves took to the podium and told the crowd why he deserved a seventh term in office. Neves was elected in 1994 and hasn’t fielded an opponent until this year when Lemoore City Councilmember Eddie Neal joined the race.

The candidates each had six minutes to articulate a campaign message, and Neves took full advantage, citing his 24 years as a supervisor and his experience with the Stratford Utility District. The longtime candidate, during his supervisorial tenure, managed to earn a master’s degree and boasted of his community involvement and his ability to understand the inner workings of government. “I understand audits and budgets,” he said.

District 1 Supervisor Candidate Eddie Neal
District 1 Supervisor Candidate Eddie Neal

He also said he’d like to see the county streamline the permit process, making easier for local businesses to prosper.

Neal, a two-term Lemoore councilmember who garnered the most votes in the 2016 election, credited Neves with a sense of passion, but said, “sometimes change is better,” signaling his intentions to bring a new spirit to the county.

“I’m going to step out of the box,” he said, speaking with the conviction of a preacher pounding the pulpit. “My voting record speaks for itself.”

He said he intends to support kids and water issues, and when local law enforcement needs something, he’s on their side. He also said its essential the county be business friendly and the expressed the need to increase tax revenues.

Probably the most watched race this year is in District 3 where Lemoore Chief of Police Darrell Smith gave a rousing retrospection of a career that he says has benefitted his community. “I’ve been in public service my entire adult life,” he said. He listed his accomplishments as Lemoore’s chief: lower crime and community involvements among many.

District 1 Supervisor Candidate Joe Neves
District 1 Supervisor Candidate Joe Neves

He cited the need to ensure water for local agriculture and creating jobs to improve the local economy. “My leadership will be a valuable asset to the Board of Supervisors,’ he said.

In later remarks, he supported the concept of smart growth and the need to attract new businesses.

His opponent, incumbent Doug Verboon, dressed in his usual cowboy boots and jeans, cited his long public service which began with an election to a local school board. He’s been a long-time farmer and businessman and cites the popularity of his shopping center in Lemoore at Cinnamon and Lemoore Avenue.

“I have a lot of business sense and a lot of farming sense,” he said. The two-term supervisor reiterated his opposition to the High-Speed Rail, something California doesn’t need.

Fagundes, seeking his second term as Kings County District Attorney, cited what he says is a productive four years. “I love this profession,” he said.

He told the audience he’s holding criminals accountable and has modernized the DA’s technological capabilities, straightening out an outdated computer system and improving the department’s record-keeping skills. “We’ve moved into the 21st5 Century.”

He said when he entered the DA’s office in 2015, things were a mess. There was a huge backlog of cases. He and his staff has managed to reduce that backlog of cases.

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