While her two Democrat rivals engage in a $2M media battle financed by real estate and labor interests, Republican Catharine Baker, quietly addresses small groups in the 16th Assembly District with her message of reform for California’s State Capitol.
The California Primary campaign will come to a conclusion June 3rd when voters select the top two candidates to face off in November to determine who will succeed termed out Joan Buchanan, in the State Assembly.
If there is one word that describes Catharine Baker’s underdog campaign, it would be “focused.” Not only must she defeat one of her well funded Democratic opponents Steve Glazer or Tim Sbranti, but she also balances life as an attorney, Mom, wife, and community activist.
When I recently caught up with Baker at her San Ramon campaign headquarters, she just got off work and was directing staff on tasks that needed to be performed in preparation for the primary. Several minutes into the interview, she excused herself to find out the results of her son’s little league AAA game in Dublin, where her family resides. Not missing a beat, we soon resumed a discussion about her positions on critical issues facing the electorate in the Assembly race. Through this entire process, Baker stayed focused, which will bode well should she win the election this November.
At least in the Bay Area Republicans are so few that it has been suggested they be put on the endangered species list. Why have you represented the party in this race?
I can only be myself and represent first what I believe in. For me this means limiting the size of government, more opportunities and individual freedom. It is not possible for me to be something that I am not. In this case being a Republican is where I belong.
You look at the electoral map see there are no Republicans from the Bay Area elected to any statewide office or State Assembly or Senate. That makes you different than those who have failed to win seats in recent years?
First, the political make-up of this district is different than many others the Bay Area. One has to remember that this is where Guy Houston, Lynn Leach, and Bill Baker held this Assembly seat. It is more conservative than some surrounding areas. My beliefs match this district very well. Voters tend not to be tied to the extremes of either party.
What brought you to running for the Assembly as it would appear you have a successful career as an attorney and have more than enough responsibilities raising a family.
I felt that challenges facing the state and individual families are not being addressed by the Assembly. Education, job creation, financial stability, and infrastructure needs are among the areas that need to be addressed. In order to do this, I will have to go up to Sacramento to make these changes.
Should you win the race this fall, what distinguishes you as an individual versus your foes who have been elected officials for some time?
Electeds officials in Sacramento are saying we have a balanced budget, but we all know this is not true.
When you spend beyond your means, you expose yourself to great financial peril. Bond and pension related obligations are a time bomb which threatens our future. I will go up to Sacramento and address these problems.
Does the approximately $2M that labor unions, the real estate lobby, and other special interest groups have poured into your opponents’ campaigns scare you?
No, because I have a stronger message. They might have big money to spend in the campaign, but they don’t control the minds of voters.
Can Steve Glazer be “Independent, fair minded, and fierce” when he is so dependent on large donors to finance his campaign? Or for that matter Tim Sbranti, who has relied on organized labor to bankroll that capmpaign?
These are fair, legitimate questions to ask. This is a real concern when candidates are overly dependent on big special interests that have a strong political base in Sacramento.
Do you think voters will see through this and be able to evaluate you in a fair manner?
Absolutely! You have to get thru the clutter of the messaging. The voters in this district are very smart and can see past the pestering game played by other candidates.
Let’s talk about the issues in the campaign. What do you think about the increased control by the State over local communities by determining how they spend tax monies passed down from the State?
It is not the function of legislature to govern local communities. Sacramento politicians are addicted to micromanaging local affairs best left to local communities.
Do you favor the decision making done on how funds are spent by regional agencies or in some other ways?
Our locally elected City Councils and County Supervisors should have maximum control over regional planning issues.
Education keeps coming up in the campaign and I know from your involvement where your children attend school and your work for the school district, this is an import subject for you. Putting you on the spot, should you be elected in November, what changes would you like to bring about in the Legislature around education?
We need to insure our schools have the financial resources in the classroom and not for maintaining an expensive educational bureaucracy. I will fight to support reforms that go beyond the status quo.
What specific things do you have in mind?
We need to reward teachers for good performance rather than only paying for seniority. In addition the tenure system needs to have more professional development during a teacher’s career. .
What do you think about the so-called housing element touted by mega regional planning agencies where each city must build a certain number of middle and low income housing or risk losing tax revenues from the State?
I really believe that the state should not be mandating housing requirements in local communities.
Should redevelopment that the State dropped in 2010 be reinstated?
It certainly should not be like the old one the governor ended. Redevelopment funds had become an example, in many instances, of misuse of State and taxpayers resources. I think before we even consider bringing back redevelopment, we need to focus on having a stronger economy.
How do the infrastructure expenses such as police, fire, recreation, and schools fit into funding by the state?
We need to be sure our local communities have the resources they need to provide basic services many of which were taken away by the State when they had financial problems during the recession. The greatest threat to accomplishing this is unfunded pension liabilities to government workers.
How would you characterize the overall legislative record of the super majority held by Democrats in the State legislative?
It is not good when one party does not have to speak with the other one ever about anything. This is not sustainable and produces corruption and extreme legislation going unchecked. Good laws such as banning BART strikes never see the light of day.
My leadership style is to work with others regardless of party to get things done, to hold strong to my convictions without being divisive or strident. This is why I am getting strong support from the entire political spectrum. This is how I can win and how we should all govern.
How do you see the political landscape changing in California in the next decade?
I hope we won’t see a one party system. You don’t see voters clamoring for a left wing agenda. We will also see change brought about by debt from government employee pension plans that will have a major effect on every Californian and can change how we can look at the relationship between the private and public sector regardless of party.
It is almost certain that when your opponent emerges after the primary that whatever your stances are on abortion, gay marriage, workplace discrimination, etc., they will be attacked. How will you counter negative attacks to discredit you and your campaign?
I will continue to focus on issues on which voters in our community are clamoring for representation to address including education, the economy, debt, infrastructure, and job creation. I will not be easily distracted by attempts to micromanage people’s lives or attacks from the other side.
What endorsements have you received that mean the most to you?
The Contra Costa Times was a big one as was The Pleasanton Weekly. I value endorsements from friends, neighbors, City Council members, Supervisors, School Board Members, The Silicon Valley Chinese Association and others regardless of political party.
How can you as one person break the so called “Progressive” domination in the State Capital and the influence of powerful lobbyists?
Having the will to stand up for my principles is most important. Each night I will be coming home to my family and community to get out of the bubble in Sacramento.