Hello Assembly, goodbye Modesto council, CSUS

Kristin Olsen’s win in a race for the 25th Assembly District means she’ll have to step down this year from her seat on the Modesto City Council and her post as the top communications officer at California State University, Stanislaus.

Olsen said she has not set a date for when she’ll leave the two positions. She won her second election to the City Council in November, and her successor will have three years to finish the term representing north-central Modesto.

“There will be a lot of decisions to make in the coming days and weeks,” she said. “Right now my plan is to continue working hard for the 5th District of Modesto.”

Olsen emerged as the top vote-getter in a six-way campaign for the seat held by Tom Berryhill. Berryhill won the GOP nomination to the 14th Senate District.

No Democrat filed to run in the 25th Assembly District, ensuring that Olsen won’t have an opponent in November’s general election.

Modesto’s charter allows the City Council to appoint someone to a vacant seat within 30 days of an incumbent resigning. If the council does not make that appointment, the city would hold a special election.

Mayor Jim Ridenour said the council would make its decision on how to proceed once it hears from Olsen on when she plans to resign.

Olsen received 9,800 votes, or 27.1 percent. Former Modesto City Councilman Bill Conrad came in second with 7,777 votes, or 21.5 percent. Former Modesto Councilwoman Janice Keating had 7,314 votes, or 20.2 percent.

Former Turlock Councilman Kurt Vander Weide, Tuolumne County Supervisor Teri Murrison and Riverbank Councilman Jesse James White rounded out the field.

Olsen, Keating and Vander Weide collected the most endorsements and raised the most money for the campaign. That’s one reason Conrad’s showing was a surprise.

He returned from two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the Army in the fall, and entered the Assembly race relatively late. Voters last memory of him centered on a poor campaign he ran for the same Assembly seat four years ago, when he implied in a mailer that Berryhill — a heart transplant recipient — didn’t have the heart to serve in the Legislature.

“I think I matured a lot when I went overseas,” Conrad said. “I’m a little softer.”

He’s in training for a new military assignment at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He said the results from the Assembly campaign encouraged him to consider running for office again.

“In my life, I've never had more people call and congratulate me for coming in second place,” he said.

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