State Sen. Cannella of Ceres drawing attention for moderation

jsly@modbee.comMay 4, 2013 

A weekend conference titled "The Changing Face of America" wraps up this morning at UC Berkeley with a panel discussion called "Friends and Foes: The Politics of Immigration Reform."

Two Republican legislators will be on the panel. One, John Kavanagh of Arizona, has gotten a lot of press for his 2011 bill to end citizenship for U.S.-born kids of illegal immigrants, referred to as "birthright citizenship." (More recently, he grabbed headlines for a proposal to require transgender people to use the restroom that matches their birth sex, but that's a subject for another day — or never.)

Some claim all Republicans think like Kavanagh. Think again.

The other Republican panelist is one of ours, state Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres. On immigration issues, Cannella has a dramatically different attitude from Kavanagh.

This isn't news, as in new information, to those who know Cannella. His first year in the state Senate, Cannella supported California's version of the DREAM act for young illegal immigrants. He has supported bills allowing driver's licenses for some undocumented immigrants.

He was invited to the Berkeley conference after his column "We need to find compromise in immigration legislation" ran in The Sacramento Bee.

Later in April, The San Francisco Chronicle featured Cannella in a front-page story: "GOP senator's formula could entice Latinos." The Chronicle reported Cannella's interesting background that we all know. He is the son of former Assemblyman Sal Cannella, a Democrat, and a union member who often, but not always, sides with union views.

But Anthony Cannella also is an evangelical Christian with a strong anti-abortion stand.

I've not heard any local Republicans challenge his conservative credentials, but then he's never been in a same-party battle. He did not have a challenger in the Republican primary in 2010, which also meant he wasn't pressured to sign that infamous no-new-taxes pledge and didn't have to drift right to win votes. Instead, he ran based on his effectiveness as mayor of Ceres and on the need to improve the business climate.

Cannella also was mentioned in a recent Ventura Star column about the five Senate Republicans who supported a resolution asking Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, also supported that resolution, which is more symbolic than significant.

My take: Most of the current Republican politicians in our area are not stridently anti- immigrant because illegal workers are so critical to agriculture, our No. 1 industry, and because they realize that there are many undocumented residents who work and living here, and their only crime is how they got or stayed here.

Cannella did offer one comment to the Chronicle that got my attention: He said his view on same-sex marriage is "evolving." Previously he supported Proposition 8.

• • •

I ended my last column with a photo of the big anti-Jeff Denham billboard put up west of Modesto and predicted the 10th Congressional District race likely will be a hot one. I guess it already is.

In late April, Democrat Michael Eggman, a beekeeper with strong Turlock ties, announced his candidacy for the seat in 2014. And, indicative the political times, within 24 hours the National Republican Congressional Committee had fired off emails and posted a photo of Eggman on a sailboat, holding a can of what appears to be Mike's Hard Lemonade. The GOP immediately put out some slogans to go with it, such as "The only Keystone I support comes in 6 packs."

This is a two-way street of snideness. Earlier the Democratic counterpart emailed a missive highlighting a Politico article that said the Republicans have identified Denham as one of their 11 "most endangered" representatives. The Democratic spin: "Even Congressional Republican leaders are now admitting that Congressman Jeff Denham is vulnerable in 2014, and they are rushing to his defense because Congressman Denham supports their out-of- touch agenda that puts millionaires ahead of the middle class and ideology ahead of solutions."

Year-round nastiness, even in an off year. No wonder so many people tune out politics, politicians and political parties.

• • •

Attention, candidates and people thinking about running in November or in the future: There will be a free workshop on the nuts and bolts of campaigning July 13, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. Topics will include walking and knocking — the value of personal contact with voters, using social media, preparing for forums and interviews and a primer on the campaign finance reports.

Sign up through the chamber office, (209) 577-5757 or email

Contact info:, (209) 578-2317 or Twitter @judysly.

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