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New chapter in Florez-Parra feud

Sen. Dean Florez and Assemblywoman Nicole Parra added yet another chapter to their storied rivalry last week, as Parra derailed a package of Florez legislation to regulate the lettuce and spinach industry after the 2006 E. coli outbreak.

As with most of the pair's confrontations, the episode devolved into name-calling, finger-pointing and stalled legislation.

The encounter occurred as Florez presented three E. coli bills, which passed out of the state Senate earlier this year, to the Assembly Agriculture committee, which Parra chairs.

The first bill was voted down, with Parra opposing.

As Florez presented his second bill, he accused the committee of waiting "for something bad to happen."

Parra interrupted: "Senator, I'm going to warn you, this is not the message this committee is sending."

"I know you're going to go out to the press and probably say that if someone else dies, it's on our back. Well, don't blame the members of this committee, senator," Parra continued. "Blame me if you have an issue, but that is not the message that we want to get out of this committee."

Listen to the sharp exchange, recorded by Fresno Bee reporter E.J. Schultz, here.

The bill was held without a vote. Listen to the silence as Florez asked for a committee vote here.

The Florez-Parra rivalry dates back for years, though its specific origins remain unclear.

In Kern County, which both Democrats represent, Florez and Parra's father, former County Supervisor Pete Parra, have long sparred.

So in 2002, when Nicole first ran for state Assembly, for Florez's old seat, he backed her primary opponent, Jim Crettol. She won both the primary and the general, squeaking past GOP challenger Dean Gardner by only 265 votes.

The next January, the Central Valley lawmakers scheduled back-to-back, rival press conferences on how to deal with unaccounted for sex offenders. They each argued that the other's approach was flawed.

Florez has also accused the Democratic Assembly leadership of shielding Parra from controversial votes. Parra, who represents one of the few swing districts in the state, has been targetted by Republicans for defeat - each time unsuccessfully - in each of the last three election cycles.

In 2003, he blamed her for a bill being held in the appropriations committee.

Again, the pair exchanged sharp words.

Finally, in 2004, Florez took on the Parras more directly, backing his former top aide Michael Rubio in a bid to unseat the incumbent supervisor Pete Parra. Rubio won.

In 2008, when Parra is termed out of the Assembly, Florez hopes to keep the seat in his family. Literally.

His mother, Fran Florez, the mayor of Shafter, has filed paperwork to run for the seat.

As a fitting touch to the nasty and personal nature of the pair's rivalry, Pete Parra, the man Florez helped unseat in 2004, just happened to be sitting in the audience as his daughter killed off Florez's E. coli legislation last week.

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