The fear and division of Larry Micari: The case for mandatory general elections in California

Tulare County Board of Supervisors Chairman Larry Micari recently attacked, not his opponent Joe Soria, but rather the idea of a Latino majority serving as three of the five Tulare County Supervisors. Tulare County has a population made up of 66.5% Latinos but only one Latino supervisor. That will change sooner than later and Micari knows it.

It is imperative to address Larry Micari’s actions not as an isolated incident, but within the broader context of our democratic processes, especially in light of the upcoming California Congressional battleground race in Congressional District 22, which includes a majority of Tulare County and holds significant national level ramifications.

The supervisor’s actions are not only reprehensible but also indicative of a larger problem of exclusion and fear-mongering in our political landscape. His attempt to sow seeds of division and stoke fear of Soria, his District 1 opponent, and Benny Corona, District 2 candidate, as potential supervisors should be rejected by all Tulare County voters.

Candidates like Micari with questionable ethics can negatively impact voter turnout, creating a drag on the overall electoral process. This is detrimental to all candidates on the ballot, from top to bottom, as it undermines trust in the electoral system and erodes confidence in elected officials. It’s crucial for candidates to uphold high ethical standards to maintain voter engagement and participation.

In addition, the lack of Latino representation on the board of supervisors despite the county’s majority Latino population is a glaring example of the systemic barriers that enable a candidate to immediately be elected a county supervisor by gaining a majority of the vote in a primary election and not obligating a mandatory general election as is done with the majority of other elected positions statewide and nationally.

This is not an issue unique to Tulare County. Between Sacramento County and Kern County, there are nine counties with a total of 45 boards of supervisors. The population as a whole is 53% people of color yet only 22% – or 10 of the 45 county supervisors – are people of color. The nine-county region as a whole is 47% white, yet 77% or 35 of the 45 supervisors are white.

Not only are county supervisors not representative of their constituents. They frequently prioritize or outright ignore solutions to issues that people of color viscerally care about and advocate for. Issues such as the housing crisis, environmental issues (air quality, water quality), lack of educational and job opportunities for youth, and healthcare.

The need for mandatory general elections to elect county boards of supervisors cannot be overstated. By aligning county supervisor elections with general elections, we can ensure higher voter turnout and greater democratic participation, thereby ensuring higher representation of all voters of Tulare County.

While redistricting efforts have aimed to address this imbalance by creating Latino-majority districts, true representation cannot be achieved if the voices of our neighbors and loved ones are silenced or undermined through fear tactics and discriminatory rhetoric as Micari has attempted to do.

It is imperative that voters in Tulare County and beyond reject divisive politics and instead support candidates who prioritize genuine representation for all constituents. Elected officials are accountable for their actions and we must demand leadership that reflects the values and aspirations of all Californians.

This is the moment to counter the politics of fear and division Micari expounds. Through our votes, we reaffirm our commitment to democratic principles and ensure every voice is heard, valued, and respected.

Pablo Rodríguez is the executive director for Communities for a New California (CNC), an organization based in the inland/rural areas of California. CNC endeavors to engage and mobilize voters through grassroots organizing on issues related to housing, access to quality healthcare, air and water quality, jobs, and the economy.