As the filing period for open seats in the California State Legislature begins Feb. 12, men and women hoping to represent Ceres and the surrounding areas will start campaigning for votes.
There will be four local elections for Legislature this year - two for State Senate Districts 8 and 12, of which both Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) and Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) are terming out, and two for State Assembly Districts 12 and 21. Both Assemblymembers Heath Flora (R-Ripon) and Adam Gray (D-Merced) are seeking reelection, with Flora seeking a second term and Gray hoping for a fourth.
Gray's district includes Ceres while Flora's includes Hughson and parts of east Ceres.
This marks the first time that Senate Districts 8 and 12 will have an open seat in eight years, with both Cannella and Berryhill serving as state senators since 2010. Two candidates have come forward to seek Berryhill's former seat, while none have yet filed to run in Cannella's 12th Senate District. Salinas Democrat Anna Caballero, however, is campaigning for Cannella's seat.
Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, announced his candidacy Wednesday, and has earned Berryhill's endorsement through his work as both a county supervisor and educator.
"Count on me to fight against tax hikes, protect Proposition 13 and work to repeal the unfair $52 billion gas tax," said Borgeas. "I am ready to solve California's chronic water problems and lead efforts to provide more reliable water for our farms and families."
Vallecito Union School Board Member Tom Pratt, D-Murphys, has also launched a campaign for Berryhill's seat.
"I'm ready to take my experience to bring real leadership for this district to Sacramento," said Pratt. "I'm running because it's time someone steps up for our community and listens to the residents of this district to address the many issues facing our region and state."
Flora has been hard at work collecting the 1,000 signatures needed for the Signatures-In-Lieu of Filing Fee Period - the only Republican Assembly member to do so in the state. Flora collected 1,000 signatures in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties so that his campaign did not have to pay filing fees. Previously, Gray had been the only California Assembly member from either party to do so.
"It's exciting because it's a ton of work, but it really solidifies where you're at within a community. It's hard to get 40 signatures for something, let alone 1,000," said Flora. "To be able to do that in two counties is a big thing."
Flora's first year in office saw many victories, he said, like securing more land for farmers and the passage of his first bill, which created a firefighter apprenticeship program in the area. He sees national politics playing a huge role in the campaign trail this year, like issues with marijuana and immigration, but if reelected, hopes to focus most of his energy on creating a partnership between the Silicon and Central valleys to create more technological opportunities for the area's agriculture industry.
Robert Chase is also listed as a candidate on Stanislaus County's primary election ballot, but the Courier was unable to reach him by press time.
Gray submitted over 1,500 voter signatures to qualify for placement on the ballot in lieu of the filing fee, and has never had to pay the fee since he began running for office in 2012.
"Collecting these signatures is a lot of work," said Gray. "It is also a humbling and positive experience," he added. "Meeting voters door-to-door and hearing from them directly helps bring focus to the work I do in Sacramento."
Candidates running for Legislature will appear on the June primary ballot, where the two candidates who received the most votes for each seat will advance to the November election.