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Reacting to her come-from-behind victory for a state Senate seat, Cathleen Galgiani said voters responded to a campaign in which she focused on legislative issues, not mudslinging.

The Stockton Democrat, who had trailed in ballot counting since Election Day, overtook Republican Bill Berryhill on Wednesday night to win the 5th District Senate seat in San Joaquin, Stockton and a tiny portion of Sacramento counties. Both currently are Assembly members.

Galgiani's campaign touted her support of California's proposed high-speed rail system and her efforts to create and develop UC Merced. She also cast herself as a protector of the San Joaquin Delta, water rights for farmers, and mental health care for youth, including those in the gay and lesbian community.

"I believe I made a case to the voters about what I have done as their Assembly member," Galgiani told The Bee. "I kept my message positive and I talked about my record and what I wanted to do if elected, and voters in my district responded."

Berryhill came under heavy fire by a coalition of public employee groups, however, which spent nearly $700,000 in an independent campaign attacking the Stockton Republican assemblyman. Both candidates were slapped by interest groups in one of the hottest and most closely watched legislative races statewide.

"I'm grateful that the voters have put their faith in me for another four years," Galgiani said. "It's not something that I take lightly and I pledge to do my very best to work as hard as I can to be the best representative I can for Senate District 5."

Berryhill's campaign consultant, Duane Dichiara, contends that Galgiani's prospects were boosted in the competitive Senate district by a "tidal wave" of Democratic turnout at polls statewide, drawn largely by President Barack Obama's re-election bid.

Galgiani's victory gives Democrats 29 of the Senate's 40 seats, four more than last year - and two more than necessary for a supermajority in that house, allowing it to decide the fate of tax measures, urgency bills, or place constitutional amendments on the ballot without Republican votes.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, in a written statement, said voters have validated the "tough decisions and difficult cuts we have had to make over the last four years to stabilize California's economic health."

"With a near-balanced budget and a projected surplus in the years ahead, we can lay the foundations for a new chapter in California and invest smartly in our public education system, in job creation, and in economic growth," he said.


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