When Stanislaus County Supervisor Dick Monteith retires next year, voters will have at least two would-be successors to choose from, both with high name recognition.
Tom Berryhill, who will term out of his 8th Senate District seat in 2018, announced Friday his candidacy for Monteith’s county post in the June election. Frank Damrell III, who works for another state senator and is the son of a renowned retired federal judge, confirmed he will run as well.
Monteith, 85, was away and unable to comment. He will endorse Berryhill, said Berryhill’s announcement.
“The opportunity to come back to the town I grew up in and give back a little bit, I think that’s pretty cool,” said Berryhill, 63.
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County supervisor is a nonpartisan office, but both early candidates clearly identify with political parties: Berryhill, with Republicans, and Damrell, with Democrats.
Damrell, 55, is a representative in the Modesto office of Democratic Sen. Cathleen Galgiani. His father, Frank Damrell Jr., was a college roommate of Gov. Jerry Brown and had connections with the White House under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
It feels like there has been a degradation of the community, safetywise, and I want to see if I can be a part of the solution.
Frank Damrell III
“I’ve had an orientation toward advocacy and public service my entire life,” Damrell said.
Berryhill’s father, the late Clare Berryhill, served in both houses of the California Legislature and was state food and agriculture secretary. Tom Berryhill’s political career started with the California Assembly in 2006; he moved to the Senate in 2010, and his brother, Bill, served in the Assembly from 2008 to 2012.
Berryhill for years has cited Twain Harte as his home, but he lives with his family in Del Rio, north of Modesto – outside of his 8th Senate District. He owns houses in both Tuolumne and Stanislaus County and legally can represent a senate district in which he doesn’t live as long as he resided there when elected, he said.
Republicans have controlled the county Board of Supervisors for many years, and all five members belong to the GOP. If Berryhill wins next year, he would become the third to migrate from state to local offices in recent times; Monteith, a former state senator, did it in 2007, and Kristin Olsen, a former Assemblywoman, returned to Stanislaus County leadership in January.
If Berryhill succeeds, a fourth could occur in 2020, when Supervisor Jim DeMartini intends to step aside, he said Friday. DeMartini said he expects state Sen. Anthony Cannella to seek the county seat.
The trend from higher to lower office is becoming more common throughout California as more legislators exceed term limits and seek steady government employment, especially in larger counties. Stanislaus supervisors are paid more than $70,000 a year for what’s considered part-time work, plus benefits.
It doesn’t hurt to have someone involved with experience and contacts.
Mike Lynch, political consultant
DeMartini, a longtime leader of the local Republican Party, said he will support Berryhill.
Berryhill may carry some political baggage. In 2015, he declined to vote in Sacramento for the so-called negative bailout, legislation that corrected an allocation formula costing Stanislaus County $3 million a year, or $74 million over three decades. All other state representatives from this area, from both parties – Republicans Olsen and Cannella, and Democrats Adam Gray in the Assembly and Galgiani – feverishly worked to curry support.
Some speculated that Berryhill – at that time considering other offices representing voters in Fresno County, which opposed the bill – did not want to anger that constituency. He raised more than $200,000 for a Board of Equalization race, according to financial disclosures, which he no longer will pursue.
Berryhill said he would have helped Stanislaus County if his vote were needed, but it wasn’t, so he abstained.
DeMartini said voters probably have forgotten the dramatics.
“He’ll be a good addition to the board, if he wants to do it,” DeMartini said. “He’s pretty solid. He would fit in fine.”
I’m excited about the opportunity to be home every night with my family.
Berryhill recently broke ranks with Republicans by voting to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program, a move praised by local farm advocates.
County supervisors Terry Withrow and Vito Chiesa said they will work with whomever wins election, including a former state office holder.
“I guess I’m OK with it,” said Withrow, who intends to seek re-election next year. “You want somebody who wants to serve our community, regardless of where they come from. Their intentions is what I’m concerned about. We want people doing this for the right reason.”
Chiesa said, “If people have the energy and the drive, and the will to learn – It’s more about decision making; it’s not about us having a homogenous board.”
The formal filing period for county offices opens in February. Assuming others apply to run, the top two vote-getters in June would move on to the November 2018 election.