It’s on, Tulare County. It’s on.
Two years after one of the biggest – and most unexpected – upset in California politics the two pugilists will face off again.
Freshman Assemblyman Devon Mathis will have a challenger in 2016: Woodlake Mayor Rudy Mendoza.
Mendoza pulled his papers for the Assembly seat late on Thursday afternoon, just ahead of the Tulare County Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner.
Mathis who pitched his outsider status in 2014 has been tarred and feathered by a Republican Party heavily fractured by his prime position in the lower chamber.
His staff, which struggled mightily early on, faced a shakeup midway through last year, with the rookie legislator bringing on ex-lobbyist Sean Doherty as chief of staff and social media guru Matt Shupe as communications director. He’s also faced allegations of triple dipping – relying on his Assembly salary, a VA disability payments, and a Wounded Warriors stipend.
So what happened in 2014? It was to be the perfect handoff of one of the most powerful figures in Tulare County politics. Connie Conway, closing out her tenure as Assembly Republican Leader, was priming the seat for Mendoza, the mayor of small-town Woodlake.
Mendoza was and is no stranger to the body politic. Aside from being Mayor of the Tulare County town, he has served as Rep. Devin Nunes’ district director.
Unlike 2014, where the expectations of a smooth Mendoza takeover were subsumed by Monday morning quarterbacking, the expectations game has shifted. Now, Mathis must take his case to voters after two years on the job. Instead of wielding the incumbency like a sword toward his new (and old) challenger, it could very well serve as a shield.