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2 Stanislaus County farmers vying for 26th Assembly seat

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Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 10:00 pm

Two farmers are looking to capture the 26th Assembly District seat, with one candidate from Ceres and the other from Turlock.

However, Republican Bill Berryhill says he knows San Joaquin County quite well because he has a 350-acre ranch in Clements off Mackville Road, where he grows winegrapes and walnuts. He sells his grapes to Woodbridge Winery.

Berryhill, who lives and farms in Ceres, is competing against Democrat John Eisenhut, of Turlock, for the Assembly seat being vacated by Republican Greg Aghazarian. In northern San Joaquin County, the district covers generally the Victor, Lockeford, Clements and Morada areas. Most of the north county is in the 10th Assembly District.

Eisenhut was born and raised in Turlock. He served in combat in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, according to his Web site. He's been an almond farmer since the 1970s and spent 15 years chairing the American AgCredit Board of Directors.

Eisenhut has served three full terms on the Turlock Elementary School District board, is an elder at his church and a board member for Delta Blood Bank and serves with the Valley Coalition for the University of California, Merced Medical School.

Eisenhut wasn't available for comment this week.

Berryhill has owned BB Vineyards since 1978 and is a partner at Woody's at the River Duck and Pheasant Club. He has been a Ceres Unified School District trustee for 11 years and is a member of the San Joaquin and Stanislaus County Farm Bureaus, Ducks Unlimited, National Rifle Association and the Lodi District Grape Growers Association.

Top contributors: Jan. 1-Oct. 18

John Eisenhut
Total: $374,604.72
$177,735.64 (non-monetary): Democratic Central Committee of California
$20,000: Loan from John Eisenhut
$10,800: Committee on Political Education, California Labor Federation
$8,200: Classified Employees for California School Employees PAC
$7,200: Service Employees International Union
$7.200: California State Council of Service Employees
$7,200: State Building and construction Trades Council PAC
Bill Berryhill
Total: $473,391.45
$590,000: Loan from Bill Berryhill
$3,600: John F. Quinn, president/CEO Food 4 Less
$3,600: Patricia Quinn, president/CEO, Food 4 Less
$7,200: Patricia Quinn, homemaker
$5,000: California Medical Association Small Contributor Committee
$3,600: Young's Lockeford Payless Market
$3,600: Friends of Jeff Miller
$3,600: CCPOA
$3,600: Associated Builders and Contractors of California
$3,600: DeMartini for Supervisor
$3,600: Hogan Manufacturing
$3,600: California Dental PAC
$3,600: Tax Fighters for Anderson
$3,600: California Real Estate PAC
$3,600: Health Net
$3,600: San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
$3,600: Pechanga Band of Mission Indians
$3,600: The Irvine Co.
Source: California Secretary of State

Berryhill said the state needs to avoid late budgets. Each party should develop budget priorities ahead of time like his school board did. Ceres Unified trustees adopted 26 priorities, giving the board an idea of where to cut the budget during difficult times. The problem is that the 2000 reapportionment encourages extremely liberal and conservative viewpoints.

The public would be better served with a 10-year term limit, Berryhill said, rather than the present limit of three two-year terms in the Assembly. Under the current arrangement, Assembly members spend their first two years learning the job, the next two years doing their job and their final two years looking for a new political office, Berryhill said.

Berryhill strongly supports drilling for oil off the California coast because it would generate $5 billion, which would go a long way toward trimming the state's budget deficit.

Berryhill's endorsements include State Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton, San Joaquin County Supervisors Ken Vogel, Larry Ruhstaller and Leroy Ornellas, Supervisor-elect Steve Bestolarides, county Sheriff Steve Moore, county District Attorney Jim Willett, the Lodi Grape Growers Association and the San Joaquin Farm Bureau.

Eisenhut didn't report any endorsements from the Lodi area, but was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and California Treasurer Bill Lockyer. He has many endorsements in his hometown of Turlock and elsewhere in Stanislaus County.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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