The California State Assembly District 13 race between Carlos Villapudua and Veronica Vargas pits two Democrats with different backgrounds and policies against each other.
Villapudua, the incumbent, will be trying to secure a second term in office against Vargas, the Mayor Pro Tem of Tracy. The two Democrats qualified through the primary in June.
Although it might look like a situation where a voter could close their eyes and “pick a Democrat,” both candidates are quick to point out they would govern quite differently from the other.
Villapudua, 53, bills himself as a “Blue Collar Democrat.”
“I get referred to as a JFK-type Democrat, meaning the old Democrat that was one group. Now the Democratic Party is divided within one party,” Villapudua said. “You have your moderate Democrats, you have your progressive Democrats, you have your liberal Democrats. I’m just the old Democrat who tries to get along and communicate with everyone, not divide.”
He said his philosophy is in tune with the Central Valley, and stated Vargas is more of a progressive, while he is moderate.
Vargas, 49, said she identifies with the party’s core.
Neither candidate is endorsed by the state or local Democratic parties. Vargas said it is rare for an incumbent not to have party support. Most races in the state pit Democrats against Republicans. In recent years two Democrats coming out of a primary is not unusual. In 2011 California created “voter-nominated” offices, in which the top-two vote-getters in primaries, regardless of their party preferences, move on to the general election.
“The problem is that (Villapudua) is part of the institution,” Vargas said. “For me this is not a family business, it’s about working hard for the citizens of District 13 and delivering solutions on the issues that are affecting us.”
Villapudua has two family members elected to office locally — Miguel Villapudua is a member of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, and Brando Villapudua is a newly elected member of the Stockton City Council and will take office in January.
A Stockton native, Carlos Villapudua spent eight years as a county supervisor (2008-2016) and ran in the primary for Stockton Mayor in 2016. He also served as CEO of the San Joaquin County Chamber of Commerce.
Vargas is an Argentina native who came to the United States when she was 18 years old. She and her family settled in Tracy in 1998, and she was elected to the Tracy City Council in 2014. She was the chairperson for the Tracy Planning Commission before serving with the Tracy City Council, and prior to that was the chair for Measure E Oversight Residential Committee.
Asked what she considered the top issues of the campaign, Vargas said her priorities included inflation, gas prices, affordable housing and homelessness.
“I think most people know this, but the issue is who is willing to tackle it,” Vargas said. “Who will resolve and fix these problems?”
Villapudua cited similar issues, and said he has learned how fast priorities can change. He said he wants to push job creation in the state.
“It has really moved as far as what the main issues were the first time we ran compared to now,” Villapudua said. “Gas prices are really high, everything you buy is at a higher cost. The pandemic really set us behind in every aspect of the universe. There’s a lot which needs to be addressed.”
Villapudua won the district seat in 2018, defeating county supervisor Kathy Miller. In the June primary, Villapudua led in the vote with 59 percent (22,731). Vargas was second at 26.5 percent (10,213) and qualified for the runoff in District 13, which is centered in Stockton but also includes Tracy and Mountain House.