In doing so, he leaves open the Republican primary race for the 21st District, which encompasses the West Side of Stanislaus County and all of Merced County.
Berryhill said he thought his brother, State Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, would run for the newly drawn 5th Senate District seat, taking in a good portion of San Joaquin County including Stockton and sprawling to Modesto. When he was informed otherwise, Bill Berryhill made his mind to seek that seat.
“It only made sense,” he said. “I’ve represented a lot of the area in that seat already, so I think I had to do it.”
The announcement comes after a citizen’s redistricting commission recently finalized new district boundaries for Congress, the State Senate and Assembly Districts in California, leaving many candidates to mull their options.
Berryhill said he was facing a tough race in the 21st Assembly District race on one hand or a spirited 5th Senate District race on the other. In the Senate race, he’ll take on Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, a Stockton native who has indicated she will move back to Stockton and into the 5th Senate seat.
“I think Bill knew he had a rough road ahead with a 15-percent registration disadvantage (in the 21st Assembly District),” said 21st Assembly District Democratic candidate Adam Gray. “It is absolutely better without an incumbent in the race.”
Compared to the 15-point advantage in voter registration that Democrats have over Republicans in the 21st Assembly District, they only have a five-point advantage in the 5th Senate district.
“I was not surprised by the announcement of Bill Berryhill choosing to run for the 5th Senate seat,” said 21st Assembly District Democratic candidate Lesa Rasmussen, who will run against Gray in the primaries. “Up until the first of November, I expect a lot of jockeying to continue as candidates decide on their best options for campaigning now that the redistricting commission finished the new districts.”
Still, the move leaves Republicans scrambling for a candidate in the race.
“I don’t know that we have anyone down there now,” Berryhill said.
Jack Mobley, R-Merced, who has repeatedly said he would run if Berryhill did not, had already decided to wait and run after Berryhill reached his term limits after this election. He said when he’d planned on running earlier in the year before new district boundaries were drawn, he had a general manager that ran his Service Master cleaning business. In late June, when the initial district maps came out and it appeared Berryhill would run for the 21st Assembly seat, Mobley bowed out and took over operations of the business, while his general manager left for a job in Texas. Mobley, who previously ran in the 17th Assembly District against Galgiani, said he would consider his options over the next few weeks.
“It’s kind of rocked my world,” Mobley said of Berryhill’s exit from the race. “I’m interested in running again, but whether I run again is still up in the air.”
Meanwhile, Gray has amassed a political war chest of more than $120,000 from campaign donors and is collecting big endorsements. By contrast, Rasmussen has a little more than $278 on hand, and Mobley has just $1,350.
In addition to obtaining financial support, Gray has gained the backing of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, Galgiani, and former Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy.
“Adam worked with me when I represented this district in the Assembly, and he has continued to work with the legislature to protect our farming industry, small businesses and homeowners,” Cardoza said. “He understands our community’s urgent need for jobs and economic growth.”
Gray began his career out of college working for then-Assemblyman Cardoza. He has since worked in the legislature as a staff member for several other leaders.
Rasmussen said she was not surprised about Gray’s big endorsements.
Gray started as Cardoza’s driver right out of school, and his uncle, Robin Adam, worked for Cardoza for a decade before moving over to Galgiani’s office for the last five years, she said.
“With such close family ties, one would expect nothing less,” she said.
Rasmussen said the endorsements and fundraising have not deterred her from her goal of being a member of the Assembly.
Meanwhile, Mobley already sounded as if he were in campaign mode, though he has not committed to entering the race. He took issue with Gray, calling him a Sacramento insider who had never worked in the private sector.
“He’s never signed a paycheck on the front,” Mobley said. “He’s never laid awake at night wondering how he is going to make payroll.”
Gray said that was not true. He has worked in his parents’ dairy business, Merced Dairy Supply, before they sold it when he was in college, he said.
“I am familiar with the challenges we face with small businesses,” Gray said.
He said that one of his goals is to grow the Central Valley economy, so college-educated young adults had jobs to come back to when they graduate.
• Nick Rappley can be reached at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.