Central Valley

Ex-Turlock councilman joins race for Assembly seat

It's getting crowded in the Republican primary for the 25th Assembly District.

Former Turlock City Councilman Kurt Vander Weide has joined the field, making a four-way race to take the seat held by Tom Berryhill, who is not seeking re-election.

Vander Weide will have to move to run because he lives a mile and a half outside of the district boundary. He's planning to move to the foothills, which are part of the Assembly district.

He's a district aide to U.S. Rep. George Radanovich, whose 19th Congressional District includes the foothills and much of Berryhill's Assembly district.

"I have worked in this area in the 25th Assembly District for 11½ years. I know these folks and they know me," he said. "I have a reputation of getting things done for them. Quite frankly, they're disgusted with Sacramento just as much as I am. We've got to cut spending."

So far, he'll be competing with Modesto City Councilwoman Kristin Olsen, former Modesto City Councilwoman Janice Keating and Tuolumne County Supervisor Teri Murrison.

The Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee will not back any of the candidates until the June primary.

In the meantime, each candidate clearly has a base.

Keating has land-use attorney George Petrulakis and PMZ Real Estate President Mike Zagaris in her corner. Keating's political team is up and running, with professional fund-raisers and advisers already working on her behalf. Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour is in her camp. So is Madera County Sheriff John Anderson.

Murrison, an elected supervisor since 2006, has an advantage in that she's the only candidate from the foothills while her competitors could divide votes in Stanislaus County. Stanislaus holds a little more than half of the district's 244,600 voters, with the others split among Madera, Mariposa, Mono and Tuolumne counties. Murrison had endorsements from Assemblyman Berryhill and Sen. Dave Cogdill of Modesto for a re-election campaign she had planned before choosing to run for the Assembly.

Olsen has connections in Sacramento because of her work for former state Sen. Tim Leslie and for the California Restaurant Association. She's also well-liked by Modesto's younger business community, such as members of the Commonwealth group. She likely will draw from the city's older GOP establishment, such as the movers and shakers who backed former state Sen. Dick Monteith when he defeated Keating in a close race for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors in 2006.

As a mother of three young children and an assistant vice president at California State University, Stanislaus, Olsen has the most demands on her time, which could pose a problem for her when the campaign heats up. She plans to take accumulated vacation to make room for the race.

Vander Weide's work in Radanovich's congressional district office gives him ties to other Republican politicos throughout the foothills and in Stanislaus County. He announced his intent to run this week at a Stanislaus County Farm Bureau meeting, signaling his plans to court ag interests. "I'm absolutely confident that ag will be behind me," he said.

Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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