The best choice in some political contests sometimes seems obvious. Several of those are on the ballot this year.
21st Assembly District – Adam Gray, the two-term incumbent, has been an instrumental part of the unofficial Valley Caucus with its focus on water storage, predatory lawsuit reform, workers’ compensation reform and making UC Merced a destination university. He is playing a lead role in trying to protect the century-old water rights of those who depend on the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers. Gray has been effective and forceful in pushing Valley issues to the front. We don’t always agree with him – his deal on gambling reform (internet, tribal casino and horse racing) leaves us cold. But he is a savvy and forceful player in the Capitol. Opponent Greg Opinski is not actively campaigning and is under indictment for trying to bribe public officials.
5th Senate District – Cathleen Galgiani admits to being a bit of a policy wonk, but voters shouldn’t hold it against her. Getting deep into the details has enabled Galgiani to become a force on issues such as high-speed rail, predatory lawsuit reform and water storage – many of the same issues Gray has worked on. They formed the Democratic half of the unofficial Valley Caucus, which worked closely with Republicans Anthony Cannella in the Senate and Kristin Olsen in the Assembly. Alan Nakanishi is a kindly, 76-year-old Lodi city councilman who had very little to show for a previous stint in the Legislature. Galgiani is the far better choice.
9th Congressional District – Jerry McNerney has spent the past nine years in Congress representing parts of San Joaquin, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties. His district wraps around Escalon and comes down to the Stanislaus River where it touches Riverbank. McNerney is a middle-of-the-road Democrat who has steadfastly opposed Gov. Jerry Brown’s tunnel project. He worked closely with Rep. Jeff Denham to bring a veterans medical facility to San Joaquin County and believes in alternative power sources. His opponent is Antonio Amador, an anti-tax, anti-immigration hardliner who was crushed by Democrat Richard Pan in a 2012 Assembly race. McNerney is the clear choice.
16th Congressional District – Jim Costa probably finds it difficult to straddle the conflicting water needs of a district that stretches from Fresno to Merced counties, but he’s doing a fairly deft job. He helped smooth the way for Turlock and Modesto to sell treated wastewater to Del Puerto Water District. While he doesn’t agree with the state’s water grab from the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers, he supports the governor’s wrongheaded twin tunnels project. Johnny Tacherra ran against Costa in 2012 and 2014. The conservative Republican claims to be leading by 8 percentage points – but most observers feel he might have gotten those figures backward. We need people who know their way around the Capitol and California’s water politics.