Former state Assemblyman and one-time Contra Costa supervisor Joe Canciamilla will spend the next six months exploring a possible statewide run for attorney general in 2010.
Canciamilla, a Pittsburg man who dropped out of a potentially contentious state Senate Democratic primary in June, has formed an attorney general exploratory committee and will make use of the roughly $400,000 left in his aborted Senate campaign.
“It’s one of the few down-ticket races, other than governor, that actually has some authority,” said Canciamilla, reached via cell phone earlier today. “Most of the other statewide seats (controller, treasurer, insurance commissioner) have very little ability to do anything or they are used only as political stepping stones for other offices.”
Of course, Canciamilla’s prospects depend heavily on a decision by the state’s current one-term Attorney General Jerry Brown,who is widely believed to be considering a run for governor in 2010. Under term limits, Brown could alternatively seek a second, four-year term as attorney general.
“I’m not crazy,” Canciamilla said. “I won’t run against Jerry. But I can’t afford to wait until Jerry makes a decision. I have to be ready to move.”
It’s a big stretch to go from an abandoned Senate campaign to a quest for the state’s top legal authority.
But Canciamilla, a lawyer and licensed funeral home director with ownership in a Pittsburg funeral home, clearly wants to get back into politics. He served six years in the state Assembly until he termed out in 2006. He raised $600,000 for his Senate bid but the moderate Democrat dropped out when he couldn’t swing enough party support to win the primary against Mark DeSaulnier, a state Assemblyman from Concord. DeSaulnier won the June primary in the Senate race and is expected to easily win the seat in the heavily Democratic district in November against a nominal Republican challenger.
If Brown shifts his focus to a gubernatorial bid, Canciamilla says the open field will allow him to compete.
“I know I’m not going to be able to make myself a statewide household name, but if I am able to raise enough money and pockets of support in key parts of the state, then I think this is doable,” Canciamilla said.
As attorney general, Canciamilla says he would focus on improving collaboration between the state and local law enforcement agencies to fight crime and illegal drug use.
“We’re entering a time period, and we don’t know how long, where the state will not have money for new programs,” he said. “We have to find ways to work together.”
Unlike Brown, Canciamilla says he would be less inclined to file or threaten lawsuits against local governments in disputes over planning decisions. Brown has used his office as an effective bully pulpit on the enforcement of AB32, a bill that calls for reductions in the production of greenhouse gases, in cases where local government agencies are considering approvals for new housing and industrial expansion.
“Too many public agencies are willing to sue over public issues and spend taxpayer money in court instead of sitting around the table trying to resolve the problem,” Canciamilla said. “That would be my last resort.”