Republican Anthony Cannella and Democrat Anna Caballero will be buying TV ads in three markets in the fall when they compete to represent a state Senate district that runs from Modesto to Madera to Salinas.
Republicans Tom Berryhill and Heidi Fuller, meanwhile, are making themselves familiar from Modesto to Fresno in their efforts to take the seat held by outgoing Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto.
Those meandering San Joaquin Valley legislative districts exemplify why so many voters are eager to see a new electoral map for the state, one that's drawn less to protect incumbents and more to foster centrist lawmakers representing sensible geographic "communities of interest."
The prospect of having a hand in political reform prompted 231 Stanislaus County residents to apply for seats on a 14-person commission charged with drawing lines for the state's Senate and Assembly districts in time for 2012 elections.
They're among more than 30,700 Californians who submitted applications to the state auditor to join the commission.
It's not easy getting those applicants to talk. As former Stanislaus County Sheriff Les Weidman explained, they don't want to compromise their chances to land an opportunity to guide the state's political future by showing a bias in a conversation with a reporter.
Weidman was the only applicant to the commission who returned my calls last week. Thanks, Les.
Others are a little more talkative in describing what they want to see from the commission. They vented about the state's last round of redistricting in 2001, which created safe seats for all but a handful of lawmakers.
That year, lawmakers drew the map. This time, politicians can't apply to be on the commission. Those were the terms of an initiative voters passed in 2008 to get Senate and Assembly boundaries out of the hands of political parties.
The 2001 redistricting splintered Modesto into two Senate districts and two congressional districts, leaving across-the-street neighbors in different jurisdictions.
"It's really alien to me to have a Senate district that's half here and half in the Bay Area," said Turlock Mayor John Lazar, a Democrat who has worked as a legislative aide to two lawmakers.
"One of our former Assembly members was from Stockton, and every time I saw him, I'd say, 'Don't forget Turlock, don't forget Turlock.' At the end of his time there, he forgot Turlock," Lazar said, referring to Greg Aghazarian's last year representing the Assembly seat Bill Berryhill now holds.
Sandra Lucas, a former Democratic Party leader in Stanislaus County, is less concerned with geography than she is with partisanship.
"Whatever they do, I do not want ideologically safe Senate districts," she said, attributing gridlock in Sacramento to the blue and red seats lawmakers hold.
To Lucas, that leads to stalemates, because legislators are punished for being moderates, as when Cogdill was ousted from his GOP leadership post for supporting a budget compromise that included a tax increase last year.
"The way that it's redistricted should not be by political party. It should be by communities of interest," she said.
Some have been disappointed in a lack of diversity among the commission's applicants. About 70 percent of the applicants are white, and about 11 percent identified themselves as Latino. Latinos make up about 37 percent of the state population, according to census estimates.
"I was hoping to see a large Latino turnout, and that's disappointing," said Ruben Villalobos, a Modesto City Schools Board of Education trustee.
Villalobos backs the process. He says it doesn't make sense to ask voters to cover hundreds of miles to participate in local politics.
Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.