Fran Florez bows out of Senate race

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Blaming her political party for saddling her campaign with a competitive disadvantage, Fran Florez dropped her bid Wednesday for the state Senate.

Florez was the first local candidate to announce a run for the Senate seat suddenly vacated by Michael Rubio, who took a private-sector job with oil giant Chevron. Florez announced her candidacy March 15.

Soon after, fellow Kern County Democrat Leticia Perez announced her run, and Florez was overshadowed. Perez was endorsed by a group of state Senate Democrats, including Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Perez emerged as the most-discussed candidate, despite, or possibly because of, trying to leave the Kern County supervisor's post she was elected to only last fall.

The Kern County Republican Party, meanwhile, endorsed Kings County cherry farmer Andy Vidak.

There are other candidates, including former Hanford school board member Alfred Benavidez and Fresno Republican John Estrada, bidding for the 16th District seat, which encompasses parts of Kern, Kings, Tulare and Fresno counties.

"As I have reflected on this race to date, I confess that I am disappointed that our leaders have not allowed this race to proceed without putting the significant resources of the Democratic Party behind a single candidate," Florez wrote Wednesday. "I must also admit to a great sense of frustration that this election cannot be decided by the people and through candidates marshaling their own local resources and volunteers."

Fran Florez's full statement on withdrawing from race >>

Florez, a Shafter City Council member and mother of former state Sen. Dean Florez, went on the say, "This seat is much too important to lose to infighting in our party - now or in a general election."

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a special election for May 21 for the 16th Senate District seat. A special runoff election, if needed, will be July 23.