Former Turlock councilman joins state Assembly race

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. He does not live in the district, but works for outgoing U.S. Rep. George Radanovich, who represents much of the Assembly district Vander Weide is eyeing.

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 in her corner. He’s influential in local politics, and has been chairman of the county GOP. 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.

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.

Murrison 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 the district’s 244,600 voters, with the others split among Madera, Mariposa, Mono and Tuolumne counties.

Vander Weide’s work in Radanovich's congressional district office gives him ties to other Republican politicos. He also could court the district’s ag community, which might have different priorities than the one’s represented by his counterparts’ supporters.

Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at 578-2366.