Political Notebook

Jim Patterson says he’ll run for state Senate in 2018

Assemblyman Jim Patterson speaks at the “Take Back Our Water” rally in October in Mendota. Patterson said Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 that he intends to run for a state Senate seat in 2018.
Assemblyman Jim Patterson speaks at the “Take Back Our Water” rally in October in Mendota. Patterson said Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 that he intends to run for a state Senate seat in 2018. sflores@fresnobee.com

Fresno Republican Jim Patterson, who is in the middle of his second Assembly term, says he will give up that seat in 2018 to run for the state Senate.

The former Fresno mayor, who turns 68 next month, will seek the 8th Senate District seat held by fellow Republican Tom Berryhill, who can’t seek re-election in 2018 because he’ll reach his term limit. Patterson opened a campaign account Thursday.

“This is where I believe I can serve best,” he said.

In doing so, however, Patterson will leave the relative safety of the Fresno-centric 23rd Assembly District and roll the political dice that he can beat any Republican challengers in the 8th Senate District, which sprawls from Fresno to Sacramento’s eastern suburbs. One possible challenger is Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, who would likely be formidable. She served as Assembly minority leader from July 2014 until she gave up the position when the new session began this week.

Besides taking an electoral chance, Patterson also is willing to give up two years in the Legislature. Under new term-limit laws, a legislator can serve 12 years maximum, either in the Assembly, Senate or a combination of both. Should Patterson win re-election this year – and he says he plans to run again in the Assembly – he will be at six Legislature years in 2018. That means he could just serve a single four-year term in the state Senate if he won, instead of an additional six years in the Assembly.

But Patterson says it’s all worth it.

“I don’t warm seats,” he said. “I have to be excited, engaged and feeling as if it matters that I am serving.”

Looking forward, Patterson said there is a higher likelihood of that happening in the state Senate.

As a Republican, Patterson will be in the minority in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, be it in the Senate or the Assembly. But the state Senate, with 40 seats as opposed to 80 in the Assembly, is a smaller body that would allow a stronger voice on not only local issues, but statewide ones as well, Patterson said. He also would like to team with Hanford Republican Andy Vidak, who Patterson feels has done good work in the Senate.

In addition, Patterson thinks there is a better chance for Republicans to keep Democrats from reaching a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate.

Most importantly, Patterson said, it is time for the Fresno-Clovis area to have another state senator. There hasn’t been one since Chuck Poochigian left office in 2006. Fresno County is now divided among three state Senate districts represented by Berryhill, Vidak and Ceres Republican Anthony Cannella.

Berryhill’s 8th District covers all or parts of 11 counties from Tulare in the south to Sacramento in the north. It crosses the Sierra Nevada and goes all the way to the Nevada border. But even though Fresno County is at the bottom of the district, geographically speaking, it has 57 percent of registered voters, according to registration statistics from the secretary of state’s office. If parts of the district in Tulare, Mariposa and Madera counties are added in, the region takes in close to two-thirds of all registered voters.

For that reason, Patterson likes his chances against a competitor from the district’s northern reaches.

Whether Olsen will run is unknown. She reaches her Assembly term limit this December. She recently passed on challenging state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani in the 5th Senate District but has said she’ll likely run again for public office.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Jim Patterson as my colleague in the state Assembly, and I look forward to watching where the future leads both of us,” Olsen said.

Another name mentioned as a possible candidate for Berryhill’s seat is Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas.

“Some people have asked me to consider this, but I am already committed to running for re-election to the Board of Supervisors,” he said. Borgeas’ seat is up for re-election this year.

Whether Patterson wins or loses in the Senate race, his Assembly seat would come open in 2018. It is a strongly Republican district and is located completely in Fresno County. Specifically, its heart lies in north Fresno and Clovis.