The candidates in the Fifth Senate District differ on taxes, high-speed rail and the best way to create jobs in an area still mired in a lousy economy.
Democrat Cathleen Galgiani and Republican Bill Berryhill shared their views in a meeting Wednesday with The Bee's editorial board and in separate interviews.
The two have become friends during their service in the state Assembly Galgiani since 2006, Berryhill since 2008 but that hasn't kept them from sparring in advance of the Nov. 6 election.
Berryhill, a wine grape grower originally from the Ceres area, portrays himself as a businessman with a knack for working with the Democratic Party to cut regulations and create jobs.
"I'm a problem solver, and I think most business people are," he said.
Galgiani, who was an aide to other lawmakers before her Assembly service, said she has worked with Republicans to attract business and also believes in bold ideas such as high-speed rail. "I'm a person who looks at things and tries to figure out how to get it done," she said.
The district, created last year by a new citizens commission, takes in all of San Joaquin County; most of Modesto and the Salida, Riverbank and Empire areas; and a small piece of Sacramento County.
The race has drawn statewide attention because a Democratic win could bring the party close to the two-thirds majority needed to pass tax increases and certain other measures without GOP votes.
Democrats have a slight edge in voter registration, but Berryhill said he overcame a larger disadvantage when he won his first Assembly election.
He moved to Stockton to run for the Senate but said he already was familiar with that area through business dealings and legislative work. He is the brother of state Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, and the son of the late Clare Berryhill, who served in both houses.
Galgiani, a fifth-generation Stockton native, moved back there after living in Livingston for most of her Assembly tenure.
She said she reluctantly supports the tax increase placed on the November ballot with the backing of Gov. Jerry Brown.
"Do I want to see us raise taxes? No," she said. "But do I want to see us make more cuts to education? No, I don't."
Galgiani noted that she supported cuts that reduced the state budget from $102 billion in her first term to $86 billion this year.
Berryhill opposes the tax measure, preferring to increase the number of taxpayers by creating jobs.
"A lot of problems go away when people are working," he said. "Our revenue comes in better and it's easier to fund education and it's easier to fund police."
Berryhill said he bucked his party by refusing to pledge to never raise taxes. Such a move would cut him out of negotiations with Democrats on the issue, he said.
Galgiani said she defied her party by refusing to review life sentences for young offenders and by traveling with Republicans to see how Texas attracted employers.
Berryhill criticized his opponent for voting to shift some offenders from state supervision to county jails and probation departments, which he said are not equipped for them.
"The criminals are laughing at us right now, and they're getting bolder and bolder because they know the consequences are two or three days in jail," he said.
Galgiani said she voted for the shift because the alternative would be a federal order to release inmates early to relieve state prison crowding. "That was an absolute nonstarter," she said. "We could not do that."
Both candidates oppose the ballot measure that would repeal the state's death penalty.
They also oppose a proposed tunnel around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to get much of the state's water supply from north to south. Farmers in the region fear that they would be left with a smaller supply.
Berryhill prefers improving channels within the delta and turning a state-owned island there into a reservoir.
Galgiani said regional water projects, such as removing the concrete lining of the Los Angeles River so water can seep into the aquifer, hold a lot of promise.
She is a leading advocate for the state's high-speed rail system, scheduled to start construction next year with a segment between Merced and Fresno.
"It's a $6.3 billion investment in Central Valley workers," she said of the first phase. "In my lifetime, I've never seen that kind of investment."
Berryhill said the system could need subsidies that take money from education.
"I come from the private sector, and if I'm going to build a train, I'm going to build it where the highest ridership is," he said.
Berryhill said education funding could be boosted via cuts from wasteful programs, such as state parks and recycling, both of which had unknown stashes of money.
Galgiani said she would continue to work on developing a medical school at the University of California at Merced, which will increase the number of doctors serving valley residents.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.
Job: Wine-grape grower
Political history: Ceres Unified School District board, 1997-2008; state assemblyman, 2008-present
Priorities: Jobs, regulation
Education: Butte Junior College
Family: Married, three children
Web site: www.billberryhill.com
Job: State assemblywoman
Political history: Assembly, 2006-present; aide to other elected officials
Priorities: High-speed rail, jobs
Education: Sacramento State University, bachelor's degree
Web site: www.cathleengalgiani.com
FIFTH STATE SENATE DISTRICT
(as of Sept. 7)
REGISTERED VOTERS: 392,431
No party 15.5%
WHERE VOTERS LIVE
San Joaquin County 69.7%
Stanislaus County 27.5%
Sacramento County 2.8%
The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 22.
Source: California Secretary of State