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Berryhill taking on Cardoza
Mike Berryhill, a member for the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors and former Ceres School Board member, jumped into the race for the 18th Congressional District race Monday, taking on four-term incumbent Congressman Dennis Cardoza.

Berryhill announced his campaign in front of Berryhill School, named after three generations of the Berryhill family who have served on the Ceres School Board.

Berryhill is the cousin of Assemblymen Bill Berryhill and Tom Berryhill and the nephew of the late state Senator and California Agriculture Secretary Clare Berryhill.

The conservative farmer said he is running to "stop bailouts, out of control spending, the take-over of the health care and protect the capitalist system."

Cardoza, said Berryhill, is no friend of farmers.

"He's upside down on water," said Berryhill of Cardoza. "He's supporting National Marine Fisheries which is suing all of the irrigation districts to take their water for steelhead (trout). They've identified steelhead as an endangered species here. There aren't any steelhead in the river. If they've found one it's one that somebody planted. The reason there aren't any is because we don't run the river that way any more. His response is 'well, they would be there if you would flush all this water down to the ocean.'"

Berryhill said that would be "literally sending our water down the drain, drying up agriculture and ruining our economy and our way of life."

"The National Marine Fisheries is just trying to rip off our water. They're going to. There's nothing that will stop them. Certainly Dennis isn't going to stop them. We had a congressman from down south (Congressman Nunes) try to stop them and Dennis nailed him. Dennis is on the Rules Committee and he basically put him out of order. You can't do anything unless you get it through the Rules Committee."

Mike Jensen, a member of Cardoza's staff said his boss has continually supported increasing water supply to Valley farmers and said he carried an amendment to not implement the Delta smelt being placed on the Endangered Species List.

"He should know better to attack Cardoza's water record," said Jensen. "Berryhill knows that water is not a partisan issue. He's worked with Republicans before ... and will continue to do so. He has a record of getting help to farmers."

Saying "the issues are on my side," Berryhill blasted Cardoza for supporting a "socialist agenda" to take over free enterprise and the healthcare industry.

"We have a terrific health care system in this country," said Berryhill. "You don't trash it just so you could cover 10 percent of the people who don't have health care. We have a market economy. If you do that and all the good doctors ... are going to go other places where they could still make a good living and not being on some kind of government program where they make next to nothing."

Berryhill said he is a huge supporter of education and decries how schools in California have suffered at the hands of a Legislature "that can't function."

"On a federal level is try to provide funding for all of the different kinds of improvements that could be made in education. For example, the Pell Grant program really needs to be expanded. We've got all of these kids qualified to go to college now and what are we doing? We're closing the schools. That's crazy."

Berryhill is also critical of Cardoza for not holding town hall meetings like most other congressmen.

Berryhill said he will focus on downsizing government and growing jobs.

"Cardoza has voted for massive bailouts and tax hikes and refuses to even meet with his constituents to discuss his position on government run healthcare," said Berryhill. "That's not the sign of a representative of the people - that's the sign of an arrogant career politician who wants to vote for a government takeover of healthcare."

Berryhill admits that he has a lot of work to do if he's going to unseat Cardoza. He estimates he will have to raise over a million dollars to be effective.

"He's got all this money that he's built up in PACs and stuff. It's going to take a lot of hard work and it's going to take money. All the issues are on my side."

If no other candidates materialize then a June primary election will not be held and Berryhill and Cardoza would face off in November 2010.

Berryhill made his candidacy announcement before a number of family members as well as supporters holding signs. After the event, Janet Hassard of Ceres leaned over to Berryhill and asked if she could keep the sign, then handed him a $10 bill for his campaign.

"He's a good man and that has to come first," said Hassard.

Ceres residents Bobby Terry and Jerry Mills also came out to support their friends.

"He has honesty and integrity," said Terry.

Berryhill and wife Francesca "Fran" have raised nine children on their family ranch in Stanislaus County.

Berryhill was born and raised on the family ranch just south of Ceres. He attended Ceres High School where he was an avid sportsman and student body president before receiving his diploma signed by his dad who was then serving on the board of education. After graduating from Arizona State University and earning his master's degree in Business Administration from Northwestern University, in 1970 Berryhill returned to Ceres where he joined his father in working on and managing their 200-acre wine grape operation. Berryhill became active in the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau and would later serve as President of Young Farmers and Ranchers of California. In 1973, Berryhill was elected to the Ceres School Board. He's been a director on the Turlock Irrigation District board of directors since 1983.