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Lodi-Galt Senate seat up for grabs

Outcome of race for 5th District could decide control of the state's Legislature

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Posted: Monday, May 21, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 9:24 am, Mon May 21, 2012.

California Republicans hope to take over the newly formed 5th Senate District because they see it as a district that could go to either party.

What's important to both parties is control of both houses of the Legislature. Democrats are within two votes of having a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which would allow Democrats to approve tax increases, override the governor's vetoes, and bypass legislative rules and deadlines.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who is leading the effort for the additional Senate seats, said winning them would make governing easier and allow voters to hold the majority party more accountable for its decisions.

"We are going for it," Steinberg told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We're going to work very, very hard to try to achieve the two-thirds supermajority. We think we have a great opportunity."

In the 5th Senate District, which includes Galt, Modesto and all of San Joaquin County, two Republicans and one Democrat are seeking the open seat. Due to the new open primary system, Democrat Cathleen Galgiani and Republicans Bill Berryhill and Leroy Ornellas will be on the same ballot during the primary election.

The two candidates receiving the most votes will square off in the November general election.

All three candidates are elected officials. Galgiani is an assemblywoman for the 17th District, which serves southern San Joaquin and parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties.

Berryhill is the 26th District assemblyman. The district includes mostly Stanislaus County, but he also represents Lockeford, Clements, Morada, and parts of Victor and Acampo.

Ornellas, who lives in Tracy, is a San Joaquin County supervisor.

Democrats have the registration edge in the new 5th Senate District, with 41.7 percent of registered voters being Democrats, 38.7 percent Republicans and 15.5 percent with no party preference indicated.

In San Joaquin County, which dominates the voting bloc, 111,000 residents are registered Democrats, 103,000 are Republicans and more than 40,000 show no party preference.

Some of the major issues are agriculture, water supply and the proposed high-speed rail system.

Galgiani's ardent support for a high-speed rail system has made it a referendum in the State Senate campaign. Berryhill and Ornellas say that taxpayers can't afford such an expensive system.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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