Cathleen Galgiani, who became state senator for the Lodi-Galt area in December, describes herself as more moderate than most Democrats at the State Capitol.
"If you talk to some of my Democratic colleagues, they'll tell you they think I'm a Republican," Galgiani said during an interview at her Capitol office. "I'm a moderate business Democrat. I see myself as a bridge between both sides."
In fact, Galgiani's family is Republican-dominated.
"My parents (Janice Kelber and John Galgiani) were Republicans," she said. "My father changed so he could sign my nomination papers."
Galgiani, 49, won the open 5th Senate District seat over Republican Bill Berryhill in a nail-biter of an election in November. Before that, she served three two-year terms in the former 17th Assembly District, which included Tracy, Stanislaus County and Merced County.
In the Senate, San Joaquin County dominates her district, though she also represents Galt and parts of Stanislaus County.
Although she had served only the south end of San Joaquin County during her Assembly years, Galgiani's roots include Stockton and Lodi. She is a 1982 graduate of Tokay High School and moved to her old family house in Stockton so that she can live in her new Senate district.
Galgiani's office at the State Capitol is full of paintings by her late grandfather, Oscar Galgiani, who lived in Stockton. His paintings include a portrait of Stockton founder Capt. Charles Weber and Galgiani's great-grandmother Adeline Galgiani, the first female court reporter in San Joaquin County.
Her top priorities in office include building a high-speed rail from Madera to Los Angeles, and establishing a medical school at University of California, Merced. She also chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee due to the importance of agriculture in the Central Valley.
Here's a list of what's on Galgiani's plate in her first year as Lodi's and Galt's senator:
Galgiani is one of the major leaders in the effort to bring a high-speed rail to California. The first step is constructing track from Madera to Los Angeles. According to the California High Speed Rail website, it would take less than 90 minutes to travel the 255 miles from Fresno to Los Angeles.
The project has received $3.1 billion in federal money for Central Valley jobs in connection with the rail project. The Madera-to-Los Angeles route must be completed by September 2017, Galgiani said.
Although critics say it's far too expensive to build, voters in 2008 approved Proposition 1A, which Galgiani wrote. The Legislature last year approved the first $8 billion of the project, projected to cost a total of $69 billion.
Galgiani counters that the cost will be offset by providing 120,000 jobs. The cost of two railroad tracks will be the equivalent of constructing 12 lanes of highway, she said.
The rail system is designed to eventually connect Stockton and San Francisco to San Diego, and get passengers from San Joaquin County to the Bay Area much more quickly, she said.
Due to budget cuts, the Legislature had to slow down the process of creating a medical center for UC Merced, Galgiani said. Although public schools took a hit from the state budget and university tuition went up, the recovering economy won't allow for more affordable tuition or greater funding for K-12 schools, she said.
Priorities will focus more on establishing the medical center in Merced, which she hopes will bring interns to hospitals in San Joaquin County.
"We've taken some baby steps, but we have a long time to go," Galgiani said.
Galgiani says her top priority is to "do no harm." One of her goals is to streamline regulations on air quality and water quality. This year, she plans to study what's already in the books and the California Environmental Quality Act.
Galgiani would like the Legislature to provide incentives for developing more dams to increase water supply in Southern California and other parts of the state that would reduce Southern California's need to transport Delta water to the south.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.