California's 2010 18th U.S. Congressional District Race: Democratic Incumbent Dennis Cardoza Vs. Republican Mike Berryhill

Steven Bryan
Yahoo! Contributor Network
California's 18th U.S. Congressional District Map

In California's 18th U.S. Congressional District, incumbent Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat, is facing Republican challenger Mike Berryhill.

Candidates for California's 18th Congressional District (two-year term)

(Encompasses the cities of Modesto, Atwater and Los Banos. Click here for a district map.)

Candidate: Dennis Cardoza

Party: Democrat

Political experience: In 1979, Cardoza, a native of Merced, Calif., worked as an intern on Capitol Hill. From 1984 to 1987, he served as a member of the Atwater City Council, leaving to become an aide to Gary Condit, who was a California state assemblyman at that time. Cardoza also relocated to Washington D.C. to work on Condit's 1989 run for the House of Representatives.

In 1994, Cardoza returned to California, serving on the Merced City Council from 1994 to 1996 before his election to the California State Assembly in 1996.

In March 2002, with rumors about Rep. Condit making national headlines, Cardoza challenged his former boss in the Democratic primary, defeating Condit 55.3 percent to 37.5 percent. Cardoza went on to win California's 18th District, defeating Republican Dick Monteith 51.3 percent to 43.4 percent.

Professional experience: In 1982, Cardoza earned a bachelor's of arts degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. Before entering public service, Cardoza was a rancher and, according to a recent financial disclosure statement, he bought seven racehorses in 2009.

Key Issues: Rep. Cardoza puts high priority on California's agricultural economy. According to the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, he serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and two of its subcommittees, Horticultural and Organic Agriculture and Livestock, Dairy and Poultry. Among his priorities, Cardoza lists an abundant food supply and providing a safety net for California farmers.

As Cardoza points out on his campaign website, California has experienced three consecutive years of drought. Based on the potential loss of jobs and crops, Cardoza advocates the short-term solution of buying water for California. For the long-term, he wants to see changes to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta River system that provide a more consistent California water supply.

As a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, Cardoza focuses on reigning in government spending. To that end, Cardoza wants to see pay-as-you-go spending, also known as "PAYGO", back in effect. PAYGO discourages any government spending that increases the outstanding U.S. deficit.

Endorsements: On his campaign website, Rep. Cardoza has a long list of endorsements, including Madera County Supervisor Max Rodriguez and Mendota City Councilman S. Leo Capuchino.

Chances of maintaining his seat: According to CQ Politics, Cardoza is almost certain to maintain his seat in the 2010 midterm election. CQ Politics rates California's 18th Congressional District as "Safe Democratic."

Candidate: Mike Berryhill

Party: Republican

Political experience: According to his official campaign website, Berryhill was elected to the Ceres School Board in 1973.

In 1983, Berryhill was appointed to the board of the Turlock Irrigation District (TID). Established in 1887, the publically-owned TID provides electricity to homes and business as well as irrigation water to 5,800 farmers.

Professional experience: After obtaining his MBA from Northwestern University, Berryhill returned to work with his father on the family wine grape operation in Ceres, Calif.

Key Issues: Like the incumbent Cardoza, Berryhill is concerned with what he calls out-of-control government spending. On his campaign website, he mentions cutting up House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's credit card, forcing the government to be more responsible with taxpayer's money.

Based on his years with the Turlock Irrigation District, Berryhill advocates more water storage and cutting back on wasted water. Berryhill wants to cut back on "flushing flows," which are designed to maintain the health of rivers and protect endangered species such as the Steelhead trout.

Endorsements: Berryhill has secured an endorsement from the Merced County Farm Bureau.

Chances of unseating Dennis Cardoza: Despite his years working with the TID, Berryhill faces an uphill battle in unseating incumbent Cardoza. As Adam Ashton of The Modesto Bee points out, Berryhill has "a lot of opinions, but he hasn't found his voice."

Berryhill takes decisive stands on water management and government spending, but he doesn't have the Cardoza's political experience. Given more time and experience, Berryhill could make a serious run at the House of Representatives, but 2010 does not look like it will be his year.

Key Differences between Dennis Cardoza and Mike Berryhill
On his campaign website, Berryhill criticizes Cardoza for supporting the government's health care legislation. Berryhill says he wants to see a fairer, free market health care system that creates more choices for consumers.

While both candidates put water at the top of their lists, Cardoza is ready to take short-term action to relieve drought conditions, including buying more water for California. In contrast, Berryhill wants to see more responsible water management and less waste.

California's 18th U.S. Congressional District

Location: Located close to the middle of the state, California's 18th Congressional District contains parts of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera counties.

2008 Results: Incumbent Cardoza was uncontested in the 2008 general election.

Demographics: According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, the 696,573 residents of California's 18th U.S. Congressional District are classified as follows: 74.3 percent white, 12.3 percent black, 0.8 percent American Indian or Alaska native, 4.4 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

According to the Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Partisan Voting Index, California's 18th Congressional District is rated D+4, indicating a moderate Democratic lean.