The 12th state Senate District reaches across all or parts of Fresno, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, San Benito and Monterey counties. From the lettuce and strawberry fields in the Salinas Valley to the dairies and orchards in the San Joaquin Valley, agriculture is the district's top industry, generating several billions of dollars in farm revenue each year.
Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, has represented the district since defeating a Democrat in 2010. He is being challenged in his re-election bid by Shawn Bagley, a longtime Monterey County produce broker who is active in the Democratic Party.
Because they are the only candidates on the June 3 primary ballot to decide the top two candidates in the race, they will face each other again in the Nov. 4 general election.
The winner will represent a district that will be slightly different from the one Cannella now represents. That's because of redistricting after the 2010 federal Census. After every once-in-a-decade census, California redraws the boundaries of its congressional and state Senate and Assembly districts based on the results.
The major changes for the district are that it is losing Turlock and will represent only south Modesto while adding western Fresno County. As of Dec. 31, Democrats were 46% of the district's registered voters and Republicans were 32.1%, according to the Around the Capitol website. About 45% of the district's voters are Latino.
Cannella said the redrawn district is slightly less Democratic and more Republican than when he ran in 2010.
Cannella and Bagley support the state's high-speed rail project, which would link the Bay Area with Southern California via the San Joaquin Valley; building dams and other water-infrastructure projects as California weathers a third straight year of drought; and attracting high-paying jobs to the district, which suffers from chronic unemployment.
Bagley, 62, is a Salinas resident. He is a founding partner and vice president of Complete Produce Inc., a Monterey-based produce broker. He is a former Central Coast regional director for the California Democratic Party and is a member of the California delegation to the Democratic National Committee.
Bagley is playing catch-up in his first run for public office. He filed to run about a week before the March deadline. Candidates typically make the decision to run at least a year before the deadline. But Bagley believes he has enough time to run an effective campaign.
Both men said they expect to spend $2 million on their campaigns. Cannella had more than $877,000 for his campaign as of the mid-March reporting deadline, according to the secretary of state's website, while Bagley had not filed as of the deadline. He said he has just started raising money for his campaign and has raised about $10,000.
Bagley said the district is suffering from a slow recovery in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which he said has been compounded by three straight years of drought. "I'm going to be an advocate for working families; there are a lot of people hurting," he said. "I just think we can do better. I think District 12 can do better, and that's why I'm running."
Cannella, 45, is a Ceres resident with many years in public service. Before his election to the state Senate, he served as a Ceres mayor, council member and planning commissioner. His father, Sal, was the first elected mayor of Ceres and went on to serve on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and in the state Assembly as a Democrat.
Cannella has been described as a moderate Republican who is willing to cross party lines when it is warranted. For instance, he supports immigration reform and co-sponsored a bill signed into law last year by Gov. Jerry Brown that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
"It is not only a safety issue, but the right thing to do," he said in a statement when the bill was introduced. "We must recognize the hard work and contributions of our immigrant population and remember that we are all immigrants to this great country."
Cannella, who is a civil engineer, said he represents his district and not his party and said his focus is on improving the lives of his constituents. "Economic development and jobs are one of my top priorities," he said. "We continue to lag behind the rest of the state in job growth and jobs that pay living wages."
Family: Wife, Marjetka, and two adult children
Education: Santa Cruz High School and bachelor's degree in world military history with honors from American Military University in Manassas, Va.
Employer: Vice president, produce broker with Complete Produce Inc.
Public office: Appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 to the 7th District Agricultural Association, Monterey County Fair board
Family: Wife, Julie, and four children
Education: Ceres High School and bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of California at Davis
Employer: Civil engineer and partner, NorthStar Engineering
Public office: State senator, 2010 to present; Ceres mayor 2005-10; Ceres City Council 2003-05; Ceres Planning Commission, 1999-2003