Early sparring marks race for Senate seat as Councilman Mani Grewal announces run

Modesto Councilman Mani Grewal, pictured here in 2016, is running for state senate.
Modesto Councilman Mani Grewal, pictured here in 2016, is running for state senate. jlee@modbee.com

Modesto Councilman Mani Grewal is lining up political support in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties for his campaign for state Senate.

Grewal, who styles himself as a different kind of Democrat, hopes to be the next senator in the 5th District, representing Modesto, Riverbank, Stockton, Manteca and Tracy.

Democratic senator Cathleen Galgiani, who is terming out next year, topped a list of supporters released by Grewal’s camp Thursday. Grewal also is backed by the sheriffs in the two counties, Jeff Dirkse and Patrick Withrow, Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold and four fellow council members, as well as San Joaquin County Supervisor Miguel Villapudua, Stanislaus Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall and various council members in Lathrop, Manteca and Stockton.

Also supporting the Modesto councilman are Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, state Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and Democratic Assembly members Jim Cooper of Elk Grove, Ash Kalra of San Jose and Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego.

Grewal, whose council term expires at the end of next year, said he’s part of a tradition of Central Valley Democrats supportive of agriculture, water rights, business and economic growth.

Grewal favors keeping the death penalty as a punishment for heinous capital crimes, in contrast with his main Democratic opponent, Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton.

With the California primary set for March next year, the Northern San Joaquin Valley has seen a flurry of campaign activity this spring.

“A lot of the business aspects of government are important to me to make sure the middle class is growing and we have good-paying jobs in the valley,” Grewal said. “Having so much broad support is reassuring to me as a candidate.”

Grewal has come out swinging with a campaign video online, charging that Eggman would let “mass murderers and serial killers” escape execution for their crimes. Gov. Gavin Newsom in March placed a moratorium on the death penalty for as long as he occupies the governor’s office.

Grewal said capital punishment is an appropriate sentence for those convicted on strong evidence of slaying a law officer or other victims. Grewal’s video also suggested Eggman did not support a recent bill dealing with predatory lenders who may charge more than 100 percent interest on consumer loans.

Andrew Acosta, campaign consultant for Eggman, countered that Grewal started his campaign with negative attacks because of a lack of name recognition. Acosta said Grewal should take up a discussion of the death penalty with Gov. Newsom.

“I don’t think the issue came up in (Eggman’s) previous campaigns,” Acosta said. “Mani Grewal has zero name identification. If he thinks his path to victory is negative attacks for eight months, we will see how that goes.”

Acosta noted that Eggman voted last week for a bill to curb predatory lending and it moves to the Senate.

Eggman, a member of the LGBT legislative caucus, opposed former Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels project that was proposed for the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta. She has endorsements from retired state senators Patrick Johnston and Mike Machado, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, three Tracy council members and San Joaquin Supervisor Kathy Miller.

Her campaign released March polling data showing Eggman was the stronger Democratic candidate for holding the 5th District seat for the party against San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliot. The poll predicted Eggman would defeat Grewal by 66 percent to 21 percent in a head-to-head.

Elliott, a Republican supervisor, had intended this spring to run for Galgiani’s seat but has decided instead to challenge freshman Rep. Josh Harder in the 10th Congressional District. That leaves Stockton Councilman Jesus Andrade as a prospective GOP candidate.

Grewal said his endorsements from the top law officers in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties show his views will resonate with people in the region. He added that his campaign for the Senate won’t take him away from his duties as a councilman.