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Tom Berryhill favored for State Senate

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Tom Berryhill

Larry Johnson

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 6:10 am, Tue Oct 12, 2010.

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill is heavily favored to win the 14th Senate District seat being vacated by Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto.

The Oakdale resident has such a safe Republican district that his Democratic opponent says he needs 18,000 Republican votes to win the November election.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Berryhill said. “We’re taking this race very seriously. We will work hard until election day.”

Berryhill’s Democratic opponent, Clovis resident Larry Johnson, is taking an unorthodox approach to his campaign. It’s low-funded, with his wife and a couple of other people making up his staff. He hasn’t campaigned in San Joaquin County, and he doesn’t plan to. Furthermore, he isn’t contacting his own Democratic base for support.

“This is a highly gerrymandered district,” Johnson said in a phone interview Monday. “We’re calling Republicans on the phone and asking them to vote for me.”

A lot of Republicans are upset with what their party is doing, Johnson said, and he’s hoping enough of them will send a message and vote for him instead.

“I win even if I pull (Berryhill’s) numbers down because it will send a message,” Johnson said.

Republicans have a 47-34 percent registration advantage in the 14th District. In San Joaquin County, Republicans within the district outnumber Democrats by a 50-34 percent margin. Nearly 14 percent in the district are registered as “decline to state.”

Berryhill is finishing his fourth year as an assemblyman representing Stanislaus and nearby counties. He survived a heated Republican primary for Cogdill’s Senate seat that included four opponents.

Berryhill has politics in his blood. His brother, Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, is seeking re-election in the 26th Assembly District. A cousin, Mike Berryhill, of Ceres, hopes to win 18th Congressional District seat held by Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater. And his late father, Clare Berryhill, was elected to both houses of the California Legislature and was the California Department of Food and Agriculture director.

The 14th Senate District is an open seat because Cogdill chose to not seek a second four-year term. The district includes the Lodi area, Morada, Linden, Escalon, eastern Modesto, Oakdale and the Highway 49 corridor from Calaveras County to Madera County. It also includes eastern Fresno, Clovis and Mammoth Lakes.

In another unorthodox campaign strategy, Johnson hasn’t appeared at any candidate forums because he believes his time is better spent phoning Republicans to seek their vote. He hasn’t even met Berryhill.

“No reason to,” he explained.

Here are some of Berryhill’s positions:

STATE BUDGET: Supports passing a budget in a “responsible time frame,” but he won’t support the $20 billion budget deficits the state has faced the past several years. He predicts that the Legislature will be more centrist after this year’s election and the 2012 election.

GLOBAL WARMING: Supports Proposition 23 on the November ballot, which would suspend California’s global warming bill. He considers current global warming regulations “back breakers” for small businesses.

WILLIAMSON ACT: Supports restoring state subventions to counties for the Williamson Act, which is an incentive to keep land rural.

GUNS: A strong believer in residents’ right to bear arms.

Here is Johnson’s platform:

STATE BUDGET: “The continuous budget impasses that occur every year in Sacramento are juvenile and unprofessional,” he says. He proposes that the expiring budget be automatically rolled over with no interruption if the Legislature fails to pass a balanced budget by the time required in the state Constitution.

HEALTH CARE: Supports single-payer health care system. He says it’s something that Congress should adopt, but since it hasn’t, the state should adopt its own. He says it would substantially drop the cost of health care for everyone because the 30 to 40 percent markup for insurance company profits are phased out and the 25 percent added costs to doctors to complete additional insurance paperwork would also be phased out.

Berryhill opposes the single-payer system, saying it’s another back breaker for small business.

BANKING: Urges the state to form its own bank, with its customers limited to California residents. Johnson said it would give California residents and businesses a substantial advantage in getting necessary capital for purchases and business expansion and research at low interest rates. Bank profits would be paid directly to the general budget and thereby reduce taxes, he said.

Johnson also wants stricter oversight of the interest rates being charged by banks and credit issuers. The law would be a reinstitution of usury laws and establish a maximum interest rate of eight percent.

Berryhill opposes the state bank idea.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard such a scheme, so I don’t have any comment on it,” he said. “You have got to look at who’s going to fund it and regulate it. I don’t think this thing has been thought out.”

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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