Judy Sly: Not all Republicans march in lock step

May 7, 2013 

A weekend conference titled "The Changing Face of America" wrapped up Sunday morning at UC Berkeley with a panel discussion called "Friends and Foes: The Politics of Immigration Reform."

Two Republican legislators were on the panel. One, John Kavanagh of Arizona, has gotten a lot of press for his 2011 bill to end citizenship for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, referred to as "birthright citizenship." (More recently, he grabbed headlines for a proposal to require transgender people to use the restroom that matches their birth sex, but that's a subject for another day -- or never.)

Some claim all Republicans think like Kavanagh.

Think again.

The other Republican panelist was state Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres. On immigration issues, Cannella has a dramatically different attitude from that of Kavanagh.

This isn't news, as in new information, to those who know Cannella. His first year in the state Senate, Cannella supported California's version of the DREAM act for young illegal immigrants. He has supported bills allowing driver's licenses for some undocumented workers.

He was invited to the Berkeley conference after he wrote a column for The Sacramento Bee titled, "We need to find compromise in immigration legislation."

Later in April, the San Francisco Chronicle featured Cannella in a front-page story: "GOP senator's formula could entice Latinos." The Chronicle reported Cannella's interesting background that many of us around here know. He is the son of former Assemblyman Sal Cannella, a Democrat; he is also a union member who often, but not always, sides with union views. But Anthony Cannella also is an evangelical Christian with a strong stand against abortion.

Cannella also was mentioned in a recent Ventura Star column about the five Senate Republicans who supported a resolution asking Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, also supported that resolution, which is more symbolic than significant.

I've not heard any local Republicans challenge his conservative credentials, but then he's never been in a same-party battle. He did not have a challenger in the Republican primary in 2010, which also meant he wasn't pressured to sign that infamous no-new-taxes pledge and didn't have to drift right to win votes. Instead, he ran based on his effectiveness as mayor of Ceres and the need for a better business climate.

My take: Most of the current Republican politicians in our area are not stridently anti-immigrant because illegal workers are critical to agriculture, our No. 1 industry, and because they realize that there are many undocumented residents who work here and live here, and their only crime is how they got here or in staying here.

Cannella did offer one comment to the Chronicle that got my attention: He said his view on same-sex marriage is "evolving." Previously he supported Proposition 8.

I noted in a previous column the big anti-Jeff Denham billboard west of Modesto and predicted the 10th Congressional District race likely will be a hot one. I guess it already is.

In late April, Democrat Michael Eggman, a beekeeper with strong Turlock ties, announced his candidacy for the seat in 2014. Indicative the political times, within 24 hours the National Republican Congressional Committee had fired off emails and posted a photo of Eggman on a sailboat, holding a can of what appears to be Mike's Hard Lemonade. The GOP immediately offered some slogans to go with it, such as "The only Keystone I support comes in 6 packs."

Earlier, the Democratic counterpart emailed a missive highlighting a Politico article that said the Republicans have identified Denham as one of their 11 "most endangered" representatives. The Democratic spin: "Republican leaders are ... rushing to (his) defense because Congressman Denham supports their out-of-touch agenda that puts millionaires ahead of the middle class and ideology ahead of solutions."

Year-round nastiness, even in an off year. No wonder so many people tune out politics, politicians and political parties.

Attention anyone thinking about running for office: A free workshop on the nuts and bolts of campaigning will be July 13, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Modesto Chamber of Commerce. It is open to anyone from throughout the region.

Sign up by calling (209) 577-5757 or email mlopez@modchamber.org.

Judy Sly is the Opinions Page Editor of The Modesto Bee; contact her at jsly@modbee.com

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