SLY: Cannella's pro-union bill riles some in GOP

August 24, 2013 

Anthony Cannella isn't likely to face a serious Republican challenger next year, when he runs for a second term in the state Senate. Here in the valley, he's well regarded as a social conservative. He isn't preachy; he lives family values as an involved father of four who loves bicycling and baseball.

But make no mistake, not all conservatives are willing to overlook the fact that Cannella does not consistently toe the party line. He's especially rankled some with Senate Bill 7, the decidedly pro-union bill that he doesn't just support but co-authored with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento.

SB7, which has passed the Senate and is very likely to pass the Democratically-controlled Assembly, would deny state construction funding — including state bond money, loans or grants — to any city whose voters have approved charter provisions that exempt contractors from paying prevailing wages for locally funded projects.

Leaders of charter cities oppose the bill; trade unions support it. And, in simplest terms, conservatives don't like unions and they don't like big government telling little government — or individuals — what to do.

Here's a snippet from an article that appeared on Union Watch, a website of the California Public Policy Center, which monitors the impact of unions on government budgets and the economy:

"Home rule through charters is one of the few remaining ways in California in which advocates of fiscal responsibility and limited government can buck the intrusive and costly policies of union-dominated state government. For a Republican to be a co-author of Senate Bill 7 and declare that an article of the state constitution is a 'loophole' that needs to be closed is a discouraging development for supporters of economic freedom.

"But it's apparently fruitful for Senator Cannella, who has received 43 percent of his campaign contributions in the first six months of 2013 from unions and construction trade associations that negotiate and administer collective bargaining agreements. (All of the other 57 percent comes from big corporate interests — this is not a 'Tea Party candidate.') ..."

The article concludes: "Obviously, at the end of 2013 someone needs to create a voting record (with percentages and ranking) of how Republicans voted on labor issues in the California State Legislature. Then there will be some accountability to the voters." The piece was written by Kevin Dayton, president and chief executive officer of Labor Issues Solutions.

Cannella's position on SB7 will surely win him some votes from Democrats and/or those supportive of unions. But it will be interesting to see what, if any, support he doesn't get next year from his own party.

• • •

Speaking of unions, the Modesto Teachers Association has decided which candidates it will support in the Nov. 5 election for the Modesto City Schools board. The MTA likes incumbents Sue Zwahlen and Ruben Villalobos — who it also supported in 2009 — and challengers David Allan and Michael D. Scheid for the four four-year terms. For the two-year seat, the MTA is supporting Jordan Dickson.

The MTA has never endorsed long-term Modesto Trustee Cindy Marks, and this year she didn't even ask for an interview, according to MTA leaders Megan Gowans and Doug Burton. They said that the endorsements, approved by the union's representative assembly, reflect candidates who committed to restoring cuts made over the last several years.

Furlough days no longer exist in Modesto, but the union also wants to get class sizes reduced and enrichment programs returned.

In the past, the MTA endorsements have been influential, not just because its members vote but also because the union provides some serious campaign donations.

• • •

The endorsements of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau also tend to carry weight in local elections, and it has endorsed Jake Wenger for Modesto Irrigation District Division 4 and Turlock Irrigation District incumbents Joe Alamo and and Ron Macedo.

So far, the Farm Bureau hasn't endorsed in the other two MID races.

The Wenger endorsement is not a surprise, given that Jake's father is Paul Wenger, former president of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and current president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. There are three other candidates in the Division 4 race, but the two with the best chance — and the most in their campaign treasuries — are Wenger and Jim Mortensen, who headed the MID Water Advisory Committee.

• • •

Sometimes, when a candidate announces really early, he or she is able to scare off the competition and get a strong foothold. And sometimes, a candidate, well, changes his mind.

Back in January, Jeff Tilton, a San Joaquin County educator who formerly worked in Stanislaus County announced he would challenge Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon in 2014. Oops, never mind. Tilton is now now running for superintendent of schools in San Joaquin County, where the current superintendent is retiring.

• • •

San Joaquin County has a race for sheriff shaping up for 2014, and one of the candidates is Patrick Withrow, younger brother of Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow. Patrick is a sergeant in the San Joaquin department. Terry Withrow tells me he'll seek re-election next year, so that will make June 3, 2014, an important date for the extended Withrow family.

Sly is editor of the Opinions Pages. Contact her at or (209) 578-2317, or on Twitter @judysly.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service