Sacramento Bee, CA
Dec 5 2010

New lawmakers descend on the Capitol

By Torey Van Oot

New faces will fill the Capitol halls Monday, as legislators elected
Nov. 2 officially assume office. Twenty-eight new members will be
sworn in to the 80-member Assembly, including one former senator. The
40-member Senate's freshman class of 10 includes just two members who
have never served in the state Legislature. Here is a sampling of some
of the newbies - their backgrounds, priorities and outlooks - as they
prepare to tackle new roles and a $25.4 billion budget deficit.

K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, Assembly District 33, Age 59

Achadjian replaces: Newly elected Sen. Sam Blakeslee

Most recent job: San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

How he got here: Achadjian defeated a tea party activist who had run
for the seat before and a conservative backed by Rep. Tom McClintock,
R-Elk Grove, in the June primary. Achadjian sailed to victory over his
Democratic opponent, winning by 20 points.

Issues: Achadjian, whose business interests include several gas and
service stations, real estate properties and a community bank, said he
wants to make issues affecting small businesses his top priority.

Hidden talent: Achadjian, who was born in Lebanon to Armenian parents,
speaks five languages: Armenian, Lebanese, French, Turkish and
English. Learning English after emigrating in his teens to attend
college in San Luis Obispo was by far the most difficult. "I spent as
much time reading the dictionary as the books," he said of his years
as an undergrad.

Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, Assembly District 7, Age 63

Allen replaces: Assemblywoman Noreen Evans

Last job: Santa Rosa Planning Commission member

How he got here: Allen won a three-way Democratic primary in June,
leading by roughly 500 votes on primary election night. He handily won
the safe Democratic seat Nov. 2.

Experience: The Santa Rosa resident's résumé includes stints as a
psychiatric nurse while he was attending law school in the 1970s, a
member of the Sierra Club legal defense team, leader of multiple labor
groups, district director for former Democratic Sen. Pat Wiggins and
founder of a community coalition advocating the use of alternative
energy sources.

The gig most like his new job: Allen said the jobs that involved
conflict resolution best prepared him for his new post. "When things
become most difficult, it's also that time of opportunity to do things
differently because what used to work no longer works."

Outlook: "I'm optimistic, but I'm old enough to know how difficult things are."

Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, Senate District 12, Age 41

Cannella replaces: Sen. Jeff Denham

Last job: Mayor of Ceres and president of Northstar Engineering Group.

How he got here: The race was one of the most expensive state
legislative battles this election. Independent groups spent millions
in the race, which pitted Cannella against Democratic Assemblywoman
and former Salinas Mayor Anna Caballero. While labor groups put their
cash behind Caballero, heavy spending by business-backed groups helped
propel him to victory in the district, where Democrats have a 20-point
registration advantage.

All in the family: Cannella is the son of former Assemblyman Sal
Cannella, a Democrat who served in the lower house for about seven
years in the 1990s. Cannella, who joined the Republican Party in 2000,
said coming from a family of Democrats gives him a valuable
perspective. He also noted that he is a member of Operating Engineers
Local 3.

Linda Halderman, R-Fresno, Assembly District 29, Age 42

Halderman replaces: Assemblyman Mike Villines

Most recent job: Surgeon, specializing in breast cancer treatments; a
senior policy aide in the office of GOP Sen. Sam Aanestad.

How she got here: Halderman did rescue work after the devastating
tsunami in American Samoa. She said her experience in the "American
Third World" prompted her to run for her office. "The poverty, the
incredible lack of resources in a place that should be so vibrant ... it
made me realize that California could go down that path if we don't
change the direction California is going."

Issues: Medical background will likely make her a top voice on health care.

Fleeced: She raises alpacas and welcomed a new addition a week before
Election Day. Her name? "First Tuesday."

Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, Assembly District 47, Age 46

Mitchell replaces: Former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.

Last job: President of Crystal Stairs, a nonprofit child development center

Budget cuts hit home: Crystal Stairs, which connects families with
child care assistance programs and providers, has the state's highest
caseload of a child care subsidies program set to be eliminated by
line-item veto cuts. Mitchell said 6,600 children would have lost
child care if the cuts, which have been delayed by courts, had taken
effect Nov. 1.

Full circle: As a senior consultant for the Senate Health and Human
Services Committee, Mitchell helped create some of those child care
subsidies programs. She said she wants to bring that experience to
tackle the budget and other issues.

Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, Assembly District 31, Age 33

Perea replaces: Independent Juan Arambula

Most recent job: Fresno City Council

How he got here: Perea was elected to the council at 25, the youngest
person ever elected to the post. He got his start in state politics as
a district representative for former Democratic Rep. Cal Dooley. Perea
will be the youngest member of the state Assembly.

Issues: Perea said he has already been meeting with Valley lawmakers
across the aisle to make the Central Valley delegation a driving
force. "We're not going to agree on everything obviously but at least
we can come to a consensus when it comes to Valley issues so we can
speak with one voice," he said.

Added duties: Perea got another new job recently - father to his
5-month-old daughter. How does he feel about juggling all-night budget
sessions with late-night diaper changes? "Having a family is a lot of
work, but it's a lot of fun too."

From: A. Papazian