Ashton: Voting records can help or hurt

05/17/2010 5:06 AM

05/17/2010 8:42 AM

Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero of Salinas wants you to consider her background as a lawmaker and local government leader when you pick a candidate for state Senate in November.

So does her Republican opponent, Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella.

They're running for Repub-

lican Jeff Denham's seat in the 12th Senate District, a sprawling area that links Monterey County with Madera, Merced and Modesto.

Cabal-

lero's introducing herself to the valley. She has an office on 11th Street, and she's here a few days a week, laying the groundwork for what's going to be one of the state's most expensive and hard-fought campaigns this fall.

It's a solidly Democratic district, but Republicans need to keep it or risk losing their seat at the table during budget talks.

Because she's new to most valley voters, Caballero starts with her biography: Hardworking former Salinas mayor rises to the Legislature, where she says she sticks up for local government and farmers.

Cannella doesn't have a record in the Legislature and is happy to turn Caballero's back at her. They met Thursday for a debate in Modesto at the Latino Community Roundtable, where Cannella highlighted Caballero's votes for bills that the state Chamber of Commerce calls "job killers."

The Legislature has "taken an economy that was once thriving, and now it's horrible," he said, lumping Caballero with unpopular Sacramento incumbents.

They're competing for a district with a huge Democratic majority. Republicans make up just 31.5 percent of registered voters, while 49.9 percent are Democrats.

But it's not in the bag for the Democratic Party. Denham won it eight years ago in a close race, but only had token opposition since then, even with the push to recall him from office two years ago.

Moreover, Cannella's early work presents plenty of challenges for Democrats to retake the district and edge closer to a crucial two-thirds majority in the Senate, a margin that would let the party write a budget without Republican input.

He's the mayor who appointed the first Latino to the Ceres City Council, Guillermo Ochoa. He has endorsements from a number of valley Democrats, such as Modesto's first councilman of Mexican descent, Dave Lopez, a Democrat.

And then there's his name. His father, Sal Cannella, was a Democratic Assemblyman.

He argues that voters should keep the potential for one-party rule in mind when choosing between him and Caballero.

"In government, there should be give and take," he said.

But Caballero counters, "The two-thirds (majority) and all that is a red herring. The bottom line is you need to look at who you want to represent you in this district," Caballero said.

True, but Cannella couldn't keep from rolling his eyes at that remark during Thursday's forum.

Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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