Pivotal California State Senate Race in San Joaquin’s SD-5

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The State Senate race for District 5 in the San Joaquin Valley will be highly monitored and pivotal to the balance of power in California. The District leans 4% Democratic and is a bellwether “likely be determined by the coattails from the presidential.” Further, if the general election pits a Republican against Democrat Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, and she wins, this could help insure that Democrats have a supermajority in the state Senate.

Also, if Galgiani is elected, she would be the first openly gay legislator from the Central Valley.

The candidates are Democrat Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, who is termed out of her Assembly District 17 seat, Republican Assemblyman Bill Berryhill who has been an Assembly member in District 26 since 2008. He is the brother of Senator Tom Berryhill, who holds the District 14th Senate seat. Leroy Ornellas is also running as a Republican. He is a third-generation dairy farmer and San Joaquin County Supervisor.

Thus, three seasoned, experienced politicians are running for SD-5. While they certainly have differences on some issues, on one issue they are absolutely united. The Central Valley needs more water from the Sacramento Delta. Water is perhaps the most crucial issue for the area. Also a factor in the race, and seen as a controversial move, Assemblywoman Galgiani co-authored the bill which put High Speed Rail on the ballot in 2008. It passed and HSR is certainly a hot-button issue in San Joaquin and throughout the state as well.

Decline-to-state voters make up 15% of the voter make-up of the district.

The Sacramento Bee has endorsed Galgiani and Berryhill, noting there is little difference between Berryhill and Ornellas on major issues except that Berryhill is more pragmatic. The two Republicans unsurprisingly favor pension reform, fewer regulations, and a smaller government. They all favor job creation and getting the economy moving again, as do all other politicians!

If, as expected, Galgiani and Berryhill are the candidates in the general election, then Obama’s presumed coattails and the slight edge in Democratic registration will help her. But, if it appears that her victory would insure a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, then outside players and money will flood into the district and the race could get national attention.

Finally, regardless of the final outcome, it appears that the vast bulk of California voters and those in the San Joaquin district now consider a candidate’s sexuality to be a non-issue in determining whether they should be elected. This may be the biggest bellwether of all.