There were lots of signs over the past few years that Janice Keating and Kristin Olsen had a mind to run for higher office while they were casting votes from the Modesto City Council -- just not necessarily against each other.
Take their May 2008 vote to raise salaries for council members and the mayor.
Keating, in tears, voted against the raise. She took it later. But it wasn't a stretch to see the three 'no' votes as signs of who wanted to seek another office. Likely 2011 mayoral candidates Brad Hawn and Garrad Marsh voted with Keating.
Olsen voted for the increases, saying she was persuaded by arguments from two of her colleagues. She acknowledged on the council dais that it was the kind of move that could kill her political career, revealing that another run was a possibility she had at least considered.
The competition between Keating and Olsen for the 25th Assembly District has friends and supporters who have backed both of them over the years struggling to choose which one to endorse.
The candidates will need all the help they can get to emerge from what's now a crowded, five-way field among Republicans to succeed Tom Berryhill in the Assembly.
"I personally regret that they're running against each other," said PMZ Real Estate President Mike Zagaris, a Democrat who is supporting Keating.
People who like Keating are behind her because of the assertive way she tackles an issue to come up with results.
Two examples are her work to push through a new downtown Salvation Army shelter and her collaboration with Councilman Will O'Bryant to identify inappropriate spending in the city Public Works Department in 2006.
"She drives her own bus," Zagaris said.
The line against her is the same one used to punch holes in her 2006 campaign for a county supervisor's seat against former state Sen. Dick Monteith: Keating's forcefulness has a way of alienating others.
"Kristin's much more of a person that will lead and bring people together to move the state forward," said Marsh, a Democrat who is endorsing Olsen. "Janice would just be her lone, driving self, and that's a big difference if you're trying to solve huge state problems."
Olsen is polished, prepared and relentlessly polite, characteristics that people such as Marsh see as strengths for lawmakers. Those same characteristics can give the impression that she's more concerned with appearance than substance, a dig that Olsen's opponents press when they knock her work to pass quality-of-life-type ordinances.
"It might boil down to personality," said Joan Clendenin, vice chairwoman of the Stanislaus County Republican Central Committee. She helped Monteith beat Keating in 2006. Clendenin isn't saying who she's supporting in this primary.
OTHER IMPLICATIONS: An astute source says the early winners in that Assembly race are Hawn and Marsh, who won't have to worry about Keating or Olsen entering their mayoral matchup next year. That thinking holds that one woman presumably would be in the Assembly and the other would be coming off a tough loss. Monteith can breathe a little easier, too, with them out of the way for his June re-election bid.
LOOKING OUT FOR LA LOMA? Then- Councilman O'Bryant played defense for a couple of years on the city's Safety and Communities Committee, blocking proposals that he feared ran afoul of residents' civil rights.
That position often put him in conflict with leaders of the La Loma Neighborhood Association. O'Bryant held up the neighborhood group's pitch to put security cameras in parks, and he dragged out what became a ban on Dumpster diving.
O'Bryant's departure from the council could make for less of a fuss when quality-of-life ordinances appear before the council. But that's not all the LLNA leadership got with November's election: Joe Muratore, an LLNA board member, is on O'Bryant's old committee.
Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2366.