Atwater community leader steps into 2012 Assembly race
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Jun 23, 2011 | 2353 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lesa Rasmussen
Lesa Rasmussen
It may still be summer, but a former Atwater city councilwoman and state Assembly staffer is already making the rounds as a rival of Assemblyman Bill Berryhill in the newly proposed West Stanislaus-Merced Assembly district in 2012.

Lesa Rasmussen, who served on the staffs of former Democratic Assembly members Barbara Matthews and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, intends to run for an Assembly seat from Merced County.

New boundaries proposed by the California Citizens’ Redistricting Commission put all of Merced County and the western half of Stanislaus County, from Ceres to the county line, into one district.

“My home county is Merced County, and I’m running from Merced County,” Rasmussen said. “I’m comfortable with where the first draft of the district lines were drawn.”

Should the final lines stay as they have been proposed, Rasmussen would be one of the Democratic opponents of Berryhill, R-Ceres.

“I think it would motivate the Democrats,” Rasmussen said of the possibility. “I feel very strong about where I am in the campaign.”

She describes herself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate who is willing to reach across party lines to help each side understand the other’s point of view.

“We must be able to sit down and discuss issues civilly,” she said. “I’m not a party-line person. We may not agree, but we can sit down and talk about it.”

People from the Central Valley are used to working together to work things out, and that is what is missing in the state Capitol, she said.

Businesses are overburdened with regulation, she said, which she described as one of the biggest problems in the state. Some of those regulations make it hard for people in the state to make a living, she added.

“If (regulation) doesn’t deal with the health, safety and welfare of Californians, then it is too much,” she said.

The bad business climate in California has resulted in a ripple effect, as the inability of one business to thrive hurts another, she said.

If an individual isn’t making money, for instance, that person can’t buy groceries or put gas in the car, which hurts the bottom line of each of those industries, she said.

Berryhill, who said he expects a “spirited campaign,” said he is working on many of the same issues in Sacramento.

“If you go down her list, I’ve been working on the jobs committee and jobs reform,” he said. “I come from the private sector, where I’ve been creating jobs all of my life, and that’s what we’re trying to do up here. I’m doing a lot of bipartisan regulatory reform to keep people in business.”

Rasmussen also listed water storage as a top priority, noting how much water could have been saved this rainy season, had there been more dams. She called for more “smart dams” — structures that could pay for themselves through electricity generation — but cautioned that the state needs a balanced approach to the use of land.

Berryhill pointed to his work on legislation in the Delta that would restore freshwater flows and protect prime agriculture land.

Other candidates so far include legislative staffer Adam Gray, a Democrat, and Jack Mobley, a Republican, both from Merced. Mobley has said he will not run in 2012 if he and Berryhill would be in the same district.

Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or

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