FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --There was a seismic shift in Central Valley politics Tuesday. One of Fresno County's most powerful politicians, Debbie Poochigian, is leaving her job with an eye on the future.
Right now, she's not going anywhere. She still has 11 months in office. But with about $750,000 in her campaign bank account, she could be poised to aim pretty high in 2018.
In the middle of a very consistent and conservative political career, Debbie Poochigian delivered a shocker Tuesday. "There have been some openings," she said. "There are going to be some opportunities in two years and I don't feel it's right to run for re-election."
"In local politics, that's a volcanic eruption for goodness sakes," said ABC30 political analyst Tony Capozzi. "No one would've expected this."
Poochigian won her way onto the board of supervisors in 2008 just as Fresno County's economy headed to rock bottom. She helped steer the county's cost-cutting measures -- reforming pensions and increasing cash reserves.
For years, she was part of a strong 3-2 majority. But while the board is still solidly conservative, she's found herself on the wrong end of a few 4-1 votes in the last year. She still has a long list of goals for 2016 -- including groundwater sustainability and water storage, which she says can be better managed in Fresno than at the federal level or in Sacramento. "We do things well here in Fresno County and let us deal with the problem and that's what we're doing," Poochigian said. "We do need more storage. We need recharge. We need all of that."
And yet, Poochigian's next stop may be Sacramento. She's not committing to her next political goal, but with Jim Patterson running for state senate in 2018, his assembly seat could be a natural fit. But ABC30 political analyst Tony Capozzi says she may be aiming even higher -- possibly as high as lieutenant governor. "Knowing how well she's done in local politics and how well she's raised money, I think she could be a potential force at the statewide level," Capozzi said.
Poochigian also tells me she doesn't have a successor in mind for her supervisor's seat, but she does want to endorse someone eventually.
Capozzi says a lot of candidates will get in line, including Clovis mayor Nathan Magsig who was the first to confirm to Action News he'll be on the primary ballot in June.
Deborah A. Poochigian letter to constituents
January 19, 2016
Dear Family, Friends, and Constituents of District 5
After four decades of work in the local, state and federal political arena, I have decided not to seek re-election to a third term as District 5 representative on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. I do not make this choice lightly as I love serving and enjoy tackling big issues that affect our lives.
It has been a high honor to serve the constituents of my district and all of the residents of Fresno County for the past seven years. I was born in Fresno County and was blessed to be raised on a farm in a family that valued hard work, common sense, and the importance of being involved in civic life. I learned so much about county government and public service from my father, highly respected five-term supervisor Deran Koligian. I also had the opportunity to be involved with state and federal political issues and campaigns and worked alongside my husband, Chuck, who had a distinguished career in the Legislature.
When I joined the Board in 2009, Fresno County was in economic crisis. Working with a board majority and leadership team that clearly understood the challenge, we were able to implement tough decisions that set us on the right course. We took our responsibilities seriously, streamlined government, and restored fiscal integrity. I am very proud of our accomplishments.
There is still important work to be done. In the next 11 months, I will continue to work hard, focus my energy on issues about which I am passionate, ask tough questions, act as a fiscal watchdog, advocate for strong ethical standards that guide county policymaking, and provide high-quality constituent services.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the job and thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve. No one knows what the future holds, but I will leave the door open for future challenges. Thank you for your friendship, encouragement, and support over the years.
Deborah A. Poochigian