Editor's Note: This article has been corrected.
The races for the Imperial Irrigation District’s Division 2 and Division 4 seats are runoffs that pit an incumbent in each district against a challenger, in which incumbents and challengers shared wildly differing philosophies on the Quantification Settlement Agreement and the way the IID is run.
Director John Pierre Menvielle, campaigning for re-election for Division 2, began by saying he has a track record of being a problem-solver and working with the farm community to devise solutions that seemed unsolvable, like the whitefly infestation of 1991.
Farmer Bruce Kuhn, his challenger, used his opening remarks to demonstrate how the IID has declined since he left his seat on the Board of Directors. He said the debt was lower and its credit rating was higher.
Both agreed that the Quantification Settlement Agreement poses a liability for Valley residents if the state does not honor its obligations to the Salton Sea. Kuhn said he has not seen the political will to accuse the state of a breach of contract. He said he would call a breach of contract and “stop the water” if the state does not come through. Menvielle said if the state doesn’t honor its obligation, “the water stops.”
The Division 4 race pits incumbent Stella Mendoza against challenger Steve Benson, an area farmer. Benson began by saying he is a fourth-generation Valley resident, and is committed to cutting what he characterized as wasteful spending. Mendoza said she keeps running for a seat on the Board of Directors because she is committed to the whole Valley. She said this election is about who controls the water, that whoever controls the Valley’s water controls the Valley’s revenue streams.
All parties were asked if candidates should accept campaign contributions from vendors of the IID or companies based outside the Imperial Valley. Benson said accepting money from parties that the IID negotiates with creates a conflict of interest. Mendoza acknowledged accepting money from a company involved in renewable energy, something she believes in, and added that her campaign does not have access to the amount of money at Benson’s disposal or have a group like Imperial Valley First backing her.
Menvielle also said taking outside contributions is a necessity when well-funded groups like Imperial Valley First get involved financially in political campaigns.
Voters will have the chance to decide between two sets of candidates with starkly different viewpoints on Nov. 6.
Staff Writer Antoine Abou-Diwan can be reached at 760-337-3454 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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