'Mod Squad' leader Canciamilla considers AG run

Legal News Line Jul. 9, 2008, 4:00pm

Joe Canciamilla (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- A former state legislator who angered fellow Democrats in the California State Assembly has set his sights on the California Attorney General's office.

Former state Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg, filed paperwork this week to explore a run for the office in 2010.

Canciamilla said the decision to run will most likely not be his, but that of the man who he hopes to follow into office. Any run, he said Monday, "hinges entirely on what the current AG decides to do."

California Attorney General Jerry Brown made headlines last week with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, which most political experts agreed suggest Brown is most likely to run for governor, leaving the attorney general post open for a statewide newcomer like Canciamilla.

While Canciamilla would likely be the first of many candidates to jump into the race should Brown move on, he would be among the better prepared financially. His campaign account topped $400,000 in January, more than enough to launch a down-ticket statewide campaign.

Canciamilla's six years in the Assembly were marked by his role as a moderate, pro-business Democrat, where he led the so-called "Mod Squad," a group of similar-minded Democrats that often drew the ire of their more liberal caucus-mates.

In 2005, Canciamilla said he was being punished for his leadership of the Mod Squad when he was stripped of his chairmanship of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

In March of 2007, Canciamilla ran for the State Senate, but dropped out just three weeks before the Democratic primary. The California League of Conservation Voters claimed a "major victory" when Canciamilla dropped out.

"Canciamilla would have been a powerful candidate to reckon with," the CLCV statement said, "with name recognition having been built up."

When Canciamilla left the Assembly, it was the first time since he first won a seat on the Pittsburg City Council at the age of 17 that he did not hold a public office. In a departing statement posted on his campaign Web site, Canciamilla said he was looking forward to life in the private sector. He did not rule out a return in the future.

"I learned long ago to never say never, so we will see what happens down the road," he wrote.

As attorney general, Canciamilla told the Bee he would focus on "getting back to basics" by building relationships with local governments, crime prevention, protecting seniors, reducing the amount of white collar crime, among other priorities.

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