In some political races, it is difficult to identify the best choice in a field of weak candidates. In other races, it is easy to separate the strong from the weak.
Then there are those races where both choices are intelligent, engaged and experienced. Such is the case with the 5th Senate District contest between Republican Bill Berryhill and Democrat Cathleen Galgiani.
Both Galgiani and Berryhill are moderates within their respective parties and have avoided most of the highly partisan rhetoric of party leaders in Sacramento.
Galgiani has served three terms representing the 17th Assembly District, which includes all of Merced County, the west side of Stanislaus and a portion of San Joaquin County. Berryhill is finishing his his second term representing the 26th Assembly District, which includes a large portion of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.
We think either one of them would do a good job in the Senate, but we give the edge and our endorsement to Galgiani. The breadth of issues and the passion she has displayed during her six years in the Assembly makes her an impressive and qualified representative for our area.
Galgiani has been a dogged advocate for a number of initiatives including the University of California at Merced, a UCM medical school and for telemedicine as a way to improve access and reduce medical costs in rural areas. While she has most recently been known as one of the leading proponents of high-speed rail a plan we no longer support in its current form her heart is in the right place in fighting for a major infrastructure project that is expected to support the struggling economy in the valley with money and jobs. Galgiani has also been focused on making sure that money is also spent on improving regional commuter lines like the Altamont Commuter Express, another indication of her big-picture perspective.
A former legislative staffer, Galgiani is an ardent student of public policy and government budgets. An example of her determination is evident today in the G Street underpass in the city of Merced. Until the project was completed late last year, traffic in the city including ambulances and fire engines could be blocked by trains for five, 10, 20 minutes or even more. Galgiani was instrumental in getting the money for the underpass.
Galgiani has chaired the Assembly Agriculture Committee and is knowledgeable on farm issues, including water.
Berryhill has put much of his emphasis on water issues and has put forward alternatives to the peripheral canal, which he adamantly opposes. He hasn't been as successful in advancing his bills, however. Berryhill is a former Ceres school board member who knows well the challenges facing public schools, yet he sticks with the Republican argument that school funding is just a matter of state priorities rather than real need.
Galgiani and Berryhill have worked together on bills, such as a 2011 effort to reduce the negative bailout for Stanislaus County, and seem to like each other. Unfortunately this campaign has gotten mean, with the worst of the ads paid for by the independent expenditure committees, which are not under the direct control of the candidates.
As Assembly members, they earn exactly the same salary $95,291 and are eligible for the same benefits and car allowance, which was reduced to $300 per month. State legislators had their pay and benefits cut 18 percent in 2009, and the Citizens Compensation Commission cut them an additional 5 percent effective at the end of this year. Senators are paid the same as Assembly members, so this position will pay $90,526 shortly after the winner takes office. We point this out because an attack mailer piece on Galgiani claimed her salary is tax free. That's simply not true.
Residents of the 5th Senate District cannot lose in this election. We recommend Galgiani as the stronger of two capable people.
WHERE DO 5TH SENATE DISTRICT VOTERS LIVE?
Sacramento County: 10,930
San Joaquin County: 273,444
Stanislaus County: 108,057