Political Notebook

Olsen weighs options after reaching Assembly term limit

Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto
Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto Vida Staff Photo

A year from now, Modesto Republican Kristin Olsen will reach her state Assembly term limit, and it was assumed she’d run for the state Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Tom Berryhill in 2018, when he reaches his term limit.

Lots of indicators pointed that way.

This is important for the Fresno-Clovis area because Berryhill’s sprawling 8th state Senate District includes this region, as well as a huge swath of the High Sierra and Central Valley towns such as Rancho Cordova, east of Sacramento, and Turlock.

She has $377,000 in a 2018 account and has spoken to a Fresno Chamber of Commerce breakfast – though officially as the Assembly’s Republican leader and not as a candidate for the 8th District seat.

But of late, Olsen has made a pivot, looking instead to a possible challenge of incumbent state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, a Stockton Democrat, in the 5th state Senate District.

In some ways, it makes sense. Olsen actually lives in the district. She’d have to move to run for Berryhill’s seat. The seat is up for election next year, meaning Olsen wouldn’t have to sit around two years waiting for the 8th District seat to open. And Galgiani is a Democrat.


Then came a Los Angeles Times story last month where Olsen said state Republican Party leaders told her she’d get no help from them if she challenged Galgiani. Maybe the cash-strapped GOP is looking to pick its battles, though the story also spoke of how it may be because pro-business centrist Democrats like Galgiani have managed to win backing from powerful Sacramento interest groups.

Olsen has picked up that line and ran with it, authoring a fundraising letter that hits at “Sacramento special interests” who want to thwart competition for candidates they support.

“Unfortunately for us, Senator Galgiani has become a Sacramento favorite instead of an active and engaged advocate for the Central Valley,” her fundraising plea says. Of note: the fundraising letter was written as paid for by Olsen’s 2014 Assembly account, which her campaign says was an error that will be corrected in any future mailings to reflect funding from her state Senate account.

Interestingly, prominent conservative blogger Jon Fleischman penned a piece for the conservative Breitbart website that criticized the business interests backing Galgiani, but also suggested Olsen was’t much better because she broke a promise not to vote to raise taxes. Fleischman’s criticism of Olsen had a point, telling other Republicans to take heed. Olsen’s actions, Fleischman wrote, have failed to win her support from the prominent interest groups.

Olsen declined to comment on Fleischman’s column.

Despite all the drama, Olsen remains committed to no race at this point.

“She hasn’t decided that she’s running for the Galgiani seat yet,” says Matt Rexroad, Olsen’s political consultant. “We still don’t know what she’s going to do. There’s a lot of people that want her to run for that and she’s considering it, and even considering it has caused all sorts of angst.”

With 2015 coming to a close, Olsen will have to decide quickly. If she passes on a challenge next year to the incumbent Galgiani, she’ll probably seek the open 8th District seat now held by Berryhill in 2018.

If that’s the case, she’ll be around Fresno quite a bit while on the campaign trail. This is the largest single population center in that district.