Cannella changes mind about Stanislaus County board seat. Who will run in District 5?

Outgoing Sen. Anthony Cannella speaking in Merced. In his last speech from the state senate floor, he asked fellow legislators to fix CEQA.
Outgoing Sen. Anthony Cannella speaking in Merced. In his last speech from the state senate floor, he asked fellow legislators to fix CEQA. The Merced Sun-Star

Former state Sen. Anthony Cannella announced Wednesday he has changed his mind about running for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.

Cannella, 50, said business circumstances could potentially interfere with his ability to represent constituents, so he reversed his decision to run for county office.

The former senator, who termed out of the Legislature in late 2018, had initiated a campaign in July for the District 5 seat, which represents Ceres and western Stanislaus County. Jim DeMartini, the four-term incumbent, will retire from the board after his term expires at the end of next year.

Cannella’s statement said he talked with his attorney and other people about his engineering business and potential conflicts with local government service before making the decision this week.

“It would not be fair to the people of the 5th District or the county as a whole,” Cannella said. “Thus, I will not be seeking election to county office at this time.”

The former mayor of Ceres was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and served a second term, maintaining a reputation as a moderate Republican.

In his statement Wednesday, Cannella did not fully elaborate on how the work of his civil engineering firm would raise conflict-of-interest concerns. But he noted Wednesday that a division of the engineering group does surveying for the county. The Modesto-based business has 50 employees and other partners.

“I was not aware of some of the connections with the county,” Cannella said. “I personally do no work for the county and did not know these (connections) were there.”

Elected officials are expected to recuse themselves from governing board decisions that could affect their financial interests.

“I have always believed in the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to government and politics,” Cannella’s statement said. “Before this campaign year began in earnest, I wanted to make certain that I had left no stone unturned and ensured that nothing would interfere with my ability to fully represent the interests of Stanislaus County and the residents of District 5.”

Cannella’s announcement leaves a wide-open field in District 5, which is set for a primary election in March. In addition to the District 5 election, the Turlock-Hughson seat held by Supervisor Vito Chiesa also comes up for election and one other supervisorial race will be on the ballot.

After supervisor and former state assemblywoman Kristin Olsen announced she won’t seek a second term last month, Modesto Councilman Bill Zoslocki and Waterford Mayor Mike Van Winkle jumped into the contest for the Riverbank-Oakdale seat on the board. Fire service veteran Buck Condit has also filed papers as a candidate.

The top two vote-getters in the March primary will move on to the November 2020 election, unless the leader in each race garners more than 50 percent of the votes.

The official period for candidates to file for the primary runs from Nov. 11 to Dec. 6, with an extension to Dec. 11 if the incumbent does not run.

Cannella said he is not ruling out another bid for public office at some point. “I still have an interest in being on the board,” he said. “We will see if other opportunities present themselves. But, as of now, I will focus on my family and business.”