Political praise getting deep in Assembly race

March 21, 2010 

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Candidates from back left, Teri Murrison, Janice Keating, Kurt Vander Weide, Bill Conrad, Jesse James White, and Kristin Olsen, clap at the beginning of a debate among Republicans for the 25th Assembly District race in Modesto, at the "A Candidates Forum & Debate" held at Modesto Junior College, in Modesto, Calif., on Thursday, March 18, 2010. (DARRYL BUSH/dbush@modbee.com)

DARRYL BUSH — Modesto Bee

The Bee typically doesn't publish endorsements -- we doubt that they really help voters choose their candidates, and they wind up looking a little too much like political advertisements.

That said, the endorsements are piling up in the six-way primary competition to take Tom Berryhill's Assembly seat and it gives you a window into which wing of the Republican Party each candidate represents -- from tea party activists to evangelical Christians.

For that, I'll wade into the thick of endorsement news releases I've been receiving to read between the praise.

- Former Modesto City Councilman Bill Conrad: He stepped in the race last week and I'm not sure who's in his camp just yet. In the past, he's won support from fiscal conservatives.

- Former Modesto City Councilwoman Janice Keating: She especially wanted to draw attention to her endorsement from Lewis Uhler, the founder of the National Tax Limitation Committee.

With that, Keating's signaling that she would oppose tax and fee increases to shore up the state's bruised budget, instead favoring spending cuts.

Her other endorsements include Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien, Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour and Modesto Councilman Dave Geer. She has a mix of elected officials from Ceres, Riverbank and Waterford backing her, too. These officials have reputations for focusing on taxpayer issues more so than social ones.

- Tuolumne County Supervisor Teri Murrison: She scored a big endorsement from former Secretary of State Bill Jones, a well-respected former lawmaker from Fresno.

This is a sign that she has support from highly regarded representatives in the party known for practical decision making. Murrison's career has touched many different government agencies in the San Joaquin Valley and foothills, and Jones' endorsement reflects her experience.

- Modesto City Councilwoman Kristin Olsen: She sent out a release last week touting her endorsements from Modesto City Schools Board of Education Trustees Nancy Cline, Cindy Marks and Kim Spina.

Generally, this is meant to show Olsen's attentiveness to education. It also speaks to Olsen as a conservative on social issues. Cline and Marks have endorsed teaching intelligent design in schools, and they're often on the watch for subjects touching on birth control and abortion. Former Trustee Connie Chin, who shares their values, is also supporting Olsen. Olsen was the only candidate at Thursday night's debate who declared herself an abortion foe without being asked.

Three of Olsen's colleagues on the City Council -- two of whom are Democrats -- are endorsing her, which demonstrates they feel they can work with her even when they disagree with her.

- Former Turlock Councilman Kurt Vander Weide: His top endorsement comes from one of the men who used to represent the district -- former Assemblyman George House.

Vander Weide also is running hard to court the foothills. The 25th Assembly District includes much of Stanislaus County, but also runs to Madera by way of Tuolumne and Mariposa counties. He's backed by all five Mariposa County supervisors, as well as two from Tuolumne. Two foothill sheriffs are in his fold, too.

His endorsements tell me Vander Weide is writing off Modesto for the time being while he builds momentum in more rural communities. It also reflects that he has connections far and wide from his work as an aide to state lawmakers and Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa.

- Riverbank Councilman Jesse James White: I'm not going to use this column to knock White, who showed a lot of potential at the debate. I'm also not going to pretend that the 21-year-old is ready for Sacramento, either.

At this point, it's anybody's race.

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