On May 19, the Dolores Huerta Foundation (DHF) held a candidate forum with several co-sponsoring organizations at the Beale Memorial Library in Bakersfield. The event was free for the public.
All running candidates were invited to the forum but some declined an appearance. The candidates that chose to participate in the forum were:
- Louis Gill — Board of Supervisors District 3
- Pete Graff — Board of Supervisors District 2
- Kelly Carden — Board of Supervisors District 2
- Aimee Espinoza — Registrar of Voters/County Clerk
Each Board of Supervisors candidate had to answer the following questions during the forum:
- What are the responsibilities of a County Supervisor? What are your qualifications for this job?
- What programs will you invest in to support youth?
- How will you ensure equitable health resources are provided to most impacted communities, such as low-income, rural, black, indigenous, people of color?
- Our county is facing an unprecedented number of houseless people on our streets. If elected, what will you do to get people off the streets and on a pathway to self-sustainability? Other than Low Barrier Shelters that currently operate.
- Kern is home to three immigration detention centers, two currently operating. If elected, how will you work with our local cities (like McFarland) and the state to protect our immigrant communities and ensure that our county doesn’t have to rely on revenue from agencies (like GEO) to keep our county running?
Candidates were given 60 seconds to answer each questions and following these, the forum moved to rapid fire questions and questions from the public. This process was repeated for the Registrar of Voters/County Clerk candidate.
During the Board of Supervisors candidates’ rapid fire questions, the candidates were given a set of cards where the green card meant “yes” or “in support” and the red card meant “no” or “do not support.” The following questions made up the rapid fire section:
- Do you agree that abortions are a healthcare right?
- If elected, would you support the rising of the LGBTQIA+ Pride Flag?
- Will you uphold California’s place as a sanctuary state for immigrants?
- Do you support health care for all?
- Do you support setbacks for oil wells near sensitive receptors? Hospitals, schools, and homes?
- Do you support terminating contracts between law enforcement and school districts?
- Do you support the expansion of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and programs throughout Kern County?
- Do you support expanding funding for libraries?
- Do you support term limits for Supervisors?
The Registrar of Voters/County Clerk candidate was asked the following questions once the Board of Supervisors candidates finished answering questions from the public:
- Not many people understand what a County Auditor/Controller/Clerk is. Please explain this position and what you believe your qualifications are for it?
- What are your plans to increase access to voting in the county? Including rural areas that have limited options. For example, east Kern County California City only has the option to vote at their local library.
- What are your plans to ensure that people in County Jail facilities and on probation or parole have access to vote?
- The April 5 meeting of the Kern Board of Supervisors was removed by YouTube for disinformation related to elections and voting. How do you plan to address the problem of election and voting disinformation in Kern County?
- What are the main problems you would face in this position and how would you address them?
The candidate for the Registrar of Voters/County Clerk also had a round of rapid fire questions where they were instructed to answer only using their green or red card. The questions during this section were:
- Do you support the statewide universal Mail-In Ballot system?
- Do you support separating the Clerk/Registrar of Voters role from the Auditor/Controller position?
- Do you support an Independent Redistricting Commission for Kern County?
- Do you support Kern County becoming a Voters Choice Act County?
- Do you support increasing early in-person voting in rural areas, even if there isn’t already a library there?
The Candidates Forum was livestreamed on Facebook and Youtube by the Dolores Huerta Foundation and the entire video can be viewed here.
The co-sponsoring organizations were Central Valley United for Power, All of Us or None, Central Valley Partnership, Loud for Tomorrow, Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, Planned Parenthood, Lideres Campesinas, Building Healthy Communities Kern, Vision y Compromiso, and United Domestic Workers.