“Kern Town Hall Uncensored” presents Republican and Democrat candidates discussing gun control, mental health, universal healthcare, and more

Jenny Brito, Web & Social Media Editor

“Kern County Town Hall Uncensored” presented Republican and Democrat candidates facing each other at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame onApril 27.

The event was moderated by Richard Beene, host of The Richard Beene Show, and Leticia Perez, Kern County Supervisor. They mentioned that most of the questions were sent by local Democratic and Republican youth,and the rest were written by party leaders.

The idea behind the event was to have candidates answering questions and participating in debates. Unfortunately, many of the candidates were by themselves as their opponents did not show up. “You can make your ownconclusions from that,” Perez said.

The first candidate on the stage was Donny Youngblood, who is running for sheriff and identifies as a Republican. He has been sheriff for the last 12 years and said that Kern County needs a lot of changes.

One of the first questions posed to Youngblood was regarding his views on gun regulation. His answer was straightforward. “I live and breathe the Second Amendment.” He added that he would represent the people who put him in office and support the right to bear arms.

Youngblood was asked to speak about his department’s approach to mental health, which is a topic that has received more attention after recent mass shootings. He shared that jails have become de facto mental health institutions, and he hasworked hard to change that.

“A lot of people are there with mental health issues I can’t even describe to you. We are able tostabilize and get them on medication, but once they are out, there is no follow up. Then, they feel better and quit taking their medication, and soon find themselves back in jail,” he explained.

Youngblood also discussed deputies’ training to de-escalatesituations. He argued that while they have training, the law gives officersthe ability to protect themselves. “The officer doesn’t have to wait to see if he or she gets shot,” he concluded.

Another candidate was Scott Spielman, a Republican, who is running for the position of Kern County District Attorney. He has a military background, which he argued gave him the discipline and determination to take on the job.

Perez asked him about the reasonsforthe high rates of minority incarceration and whether he agreed that wealthy people get better treatment in the justice system. He said that everybody, regardless of background, is entitled to have representation, and the public defender is in charge of protecting their rights. However, “the wealthy can often afford better services, which may lead to better results.”

He promised to follow his conscience and the law despite outside influences. “The bigger the decision, the higher the chances you will have someone who doesn’t like it. I make the right decision for the right reasons knowing that people will be critical of it anyway.”

The next person to take the stage was Abigail Solis, a Democrat, who is running for state senate. Despite not being well-known, the crowd cheered loudly as her name was called.

Solis defined herself as a local who wants to bring more attention to the county. “If we had a stronger voice in Sacramento, we would get more done. I decided to step up to become that voice to get what we need,” she added.

Solis is a Bakersfield College alumnusand feels that rural communities are overlooked and in desperate need of resources. She added that one of the issues families face is that they cannot find jobs locally, which is why she supports the highspeed rail project.

“I understand that it’s a controversial subject, but I do support the idea. I look forward to the day we can travel from one place to another much faster. It would provide better-payingjobs for families of the central valley who very much need it,” Solis concluded.

Next, one of the few debates of the night took place. The candidates were Chad Loui and Brandon Martin, and they are running for the title of Superior Court Judge. Loui is a prosecutor, andMartin is an attorney and law professor.

The two claimed to be good friends. “Chad and I are friends,so there won’t be a lot of fireworkstonight,” Martin said. However, things got heated as they began to answer questions.

Martin began by saying that he is not “a one-trick pony.” Instead, he has ample experience in the law field, which is something that he felt his opponent lacked. Louie responded that his commitment to one job showed determination, and his opponent’s claims were not honest.

“My colleague says he is a law professor, but he hasn’t even done it for a year and only teaches one class. A law professor is tenured, publishes, and teaches full-time,” Louie said as the audience laughed. He added that Martin has never tried a case in court. “He never tried a case but wants to be a judge.”

Martin responded. “My title is professorof law; that’s what I am. Also, he says he has done thousands of cases, but in the last years, he only concluded three cases. Honesty is important.”

Another candidate who drew a lot of applause was Pastor Greg Tatum, who is running for the District State Senate position. He is a U.S. veteran with an extensivebackground in aviation.

When asked about his mainreason for entering politics, he said that “God is sick of the nonsense, he is sick of what is happening in Sacramento. I’m coming not to play around, but to take care of God’s business.”

Tatum also emphasized the importance of investing in workforce quality and diversifying the economy. Particularly, he believes that young people should have greateropportunities such as internships to develop their skills.

“They will take us beyond oil and agriculture, so we need to focus on them. I would focus on providing more internships to introduce them to technology and space exploration,” Tatum shared.

Other candidates such as Cole McKnight, who is running for judge, continued to talk about the economyas well as the increase in crime in Kern County.

“Over the last sevenyears, I have seen the number and severity of gang crime increase in this county. You watch the news. Even little kids are added to the list of crimes by gangs,” he said in reference tothe recent murder of a two-year-old childin Bakersfield.

The evening ended with a debate between Mary Helen Barron, Tatiana Matta, and Wendy Reed, who are running for U.S. Congress. The three shared their passion for getting involved in legislation related to gun violence and opposition to the arming of school teachers.