Kern County ag water district looks for ways to bolster its influence after post-midterms

November 10, 2022
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
by Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
Map of Semitropic Water Storage District in northwestern Kern County. COURTESY The Bakersfield Californian
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern

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After an election night marked by statewide victories for moderate Democrats, one of the San Joaquin Valley’s biggest agricultural water districts assessed how best to maintain its influence. 

During the Nov. 9 Board of Directors meeting of the Semitropic Water Storage District, former Democratic state senator Dean Florez, now a lobbyist for Semitropic, updated the district’s leaders on election results. The night proved a victory for moderate Democrats running at the state level who often support business or agricultural interests, Florez said.

“At least in the assembly, where the bills to protect us live or die, that’s going to be a marked sea change, probably one for the better,” Florez said during the meeting.

Dean Florez

Democrats retained their supermajority in the state assembly, but more moderate candidates beat out their progressive counterparts. Florez estimated that about 80% of the Democrats who beat out members of their own party in state assembly races were supported by business interests. 

The result was a near-doubling of the moderate caucus, which has traditionally “put away bills that have been troublesome for us,” he said.

Still, many of the candidates who were expected to win suffered defeat, he added. Florez discussed the need to lobby new members of the state assembly and get them “on the water learning curve.”

Specifically, he named Jasmeet Bains, who appears poised to win the Assembly District 35 seat over opponent Leticia Perez.

He said the most important result still to come is who will be elected speaker of the state assembly.

Florez, a veteran politician, is an unlikely lobbyist for one of the valley’s largest agricultural water districts. As a state senator, Florez supported several bills that required farms to comply with more stringent environmental measures, including one which forced farms to adhere to the Federal Clean Air Act. 

Florez was termed out of office in 2010. In 2014, he founded Balance Public Relations and Strategies. Two years later, he was appointed to the California Air Resources Board, which pushes for restrictions on diesel trucks and other sources of emissions. 

Semitropic has relied on Florez’ political knowhow and connections for a number of efforts including getting legislation passed in 2016 allowing the 220,000-acre western Kern district to get a jump on groundwater protection projects.

The district has a severe groundwater deficit and has sought ways to increase surface water storage projects, monitor groundwater use and other projects.

Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern }

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.

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