Democrat Cathleen Galgiani and Republican Bill Berryhill led in the 5th Senate District primary Tuesday night and will face off in November if the results hold.
The candidates, both members of the state Assembly, outpaced Republican Leroy Ornellas, a member of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
Galgiani led with 30,472 votes, or 42.7 percent, with 30 percent of the precincts reporting.
Berryhill had 26,273 votes, or 36.8 percent. Ornellas had 14,694 votes, or 20.6 percent.
"I'm pleased with the race that we've run, and I'm looking forward to a spirited debate in November," Galgiani said.
She and Berryhill said they have become friends while working together in the Assembly, notably on the Agriculture Committee, but that the November race will be a vigorous one.
"At the end of the day," Berryhill said, "I think the voters will see that I have been on the right side of the issues and she has been on the wrong side."
The district includes all of San Joaquin County; most of Modesto and the Salida, Riverbank and Empire areas; and a small piece of Sacramento County.
Nearly 70 percent of the voters live in San Joaquin County, but the early vote count there did not favor Ornellas, the only candidate who has lived in the county his whole life.
Ornellas, a Tracy-area dairy farmer, said he enjoyed the campaign whatever the outcome.
"Probably the most joyful thing was all the wonderful people who came on board for this campaign," he said.
Voters did not seem to mind that the other two candidates had to move to run in the newly drawn district. Galgiani moved from Livingston back to her native Stockton, Berryhill from the Ceres area to Stockton.
Under the state's new primary system, the two getting the most votes in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of party. That opened the possibility that two Republicans would make it, though it was unlikely given the Democrats' voter registration edge of 41 percent to 39 percent.
A Galgiani victory in November could help her party gain a two-thirds majority in the Senate, allowing it to pass certain measures without GOP votes.
"The Democrats are going for the two-thirds, and they're going to go through San Joaquin County," Berryhill said. "We're the line in the sand."
Berryhill, a wine-grape grower, reported spending $408,276 on his campaign as of May 19. Galgiani was at $238,244 and Ornellas at $286,917.
All three candidates said jobs were a high priority.
"I've tried to focus on the issues and my plan for job creation in the San Joaquin Valley, which is critical because of our unemployment rate," Galgiani said.
She supports temporary tax increases while noting her votes to cut state spending. Berryhill and Ornellas said they would rather broaden the tax base through economic growth.
Galgiani is a leading supporter of high-speed rail. Ornellas and Berryhill question the project but said certain other rail investments could be worthwhile.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.