The newest Assembly member is following in his father’s footsteps
Voters in Fresno County are getting a new Assembly member, four months after Democrat Henry Perea resigned to take a job in the pharmaceutical industry.
Democrat Joaquin Arambula, an emergency room doctor, won 52% of the vote in Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat, according to unofficial results. The outcome allows Arambula to avoid a runoff against his Republican opponent, Fresno City Council member Clint Olivier.
“I am humbled that the voters of the 31st Assembly District have given me this honor and the opportunity to represent them,” Arambula said in a statement Wednesday. “I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work — fighting for the issues important to the Valley, like more water, better schools and quality healthcare.”
About 29,000 voters — or 17% of those registered — turned out to vote in Tuesday’s election, held to fill the remainder of Perea’s term, which ends in December. Political observers said that if the contest drew an exceptionally low turnout, Olivier stood a chance of winning outright or forcing a runoff. Democrats, however, appeared to have turned out their voters in force, accounting for more than 50% of early voting ballots that in the end made up more than 80% of the vote.
Elections officials still have about 5,000 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots to count before they can certify the election results, but Olivier conceded the race Tuesday evening after seeing the latest returns. Though officials have until April 14 to certify the results, the office of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said he plans to have Arambula sworn in early next week.
Arambula, 38, is the grandson of immigrant farmworkers and has worked for nine years as an emergency room physician at Adventist Health Medical Center in Selma, about 15 miles southwest of Fresno. He went to college in Maine and graduated from University of Minnesota Medical School before moving back to Fresno for his residency.
In an interview before the election, Arambula said he planned to address pressing issues for Fresno voters that have been ignored in Sacramento.
“I want to go to Sacramento to fight … to tell how our community is being left behind,” he said, adding that the Central Valley is being “strangled” by lack of water and jobs.
He will also be expected to vote on the state budget and a host of hot-button issues once landing at the state Capitol.
The Arambula name is familiar to many Central Valley voters. His father, Juan Arambula, is a former assemblyman and Fresno County supervisor who built a reputation as a fierce independent. The elder Arambula often clashed with Democratic leaders in the Legislature. Following disagreements with labor unions, he switched his party registration to “decline to state” during his final term in office. He was stripped of his committee chairmanship as a result.
Joaquin Arambula, who was a registered Democrat from 2006-14, switched to “no party preference” in 2014 before switching back in 2015, when he declared his candidacy.
It doesn’t appear that his father’s legacy as a lawmaker willing to break from the Democratic party will make an impact on Joaquin Arambula’s time in the Legislature. Rendon joined Arambula on the campaign trail in the final weeks of his campaign.
“It’s a new day, and he’s a different guy than his dad,” Rendon said. “I think he’s going to represent his district well. ... We represent 80 distinct districts, and there are probably some challenges that are distinct there. But as a Democrat, I think that’s kind of what we do. We’re a big-tent party.”
The state Democratic Party spent nearly $500,000 on Arambula’s behalf to help secure the seat. More than $2.2 million was spent in the special election, most of it by Arambula and his supporters.
Arambula and Olivier are both on the June primary ballot and are expected to run in November, when the next full Assembly term will be at stake.
Follow @cmaiduc on Twitter
Get our Essential Politics newsletter
The latest news, analysis and insights from our politics team.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.