Welcome to the Special Interests Bowl presented by the Koch Brothers. This week features a battle between Democratic hopefuls in the election to determine the successor to termed out Joan Buchanan in the 16th Assembly District.
“This should be a good one Brent, as we have on one side Orinda Vice-Mayor Steve Glazer with his million dollar plus campaign funding principally from The California Association of Realtors, squaring off against Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, along with his arsenal of cash from the California Teachers Association and various labor Unions.
One might ask what this June Primary has to do with the notorious Koch Brothers? Actually nothing, but considering the influence of special interest funding sources in this Assembly race, there seems to be little difference between these groups in their attempts as outside parties to manipulate the political process.
While the Progressive Sbranti’s support from labor unions is understandable given Glazer’s condemnation of the recent BART strike, does this merit them spending a million dollars to fund almost all of his expenses? Even by the standards of the defeated campaign reform initiative Proposition 32 in 2010, the special interest funding in the AD-16 race by any is well on the way to jumping the shark.
Steve Glazer is another story. His radio and TV advertisements depict him as an Independent, fair minded and fierce leader opposing public employees unions who hold citizens hostage by striking. These spots can be found everywhere from the Giants pre-game show to Fox News. Many of the liberal press including the San Francisco Chronicle, who has endorsed Glazer, conveniently have ignored the origin of his campaign funds..
In Glazer’s case one could ask why would special interest funding from real estate PACs be so enamored with an individual who at best has a checkered past of representing everything from increasing property taxes to promoting environmentalist causes?
The answer is simple. Glazer was the campaign manager for Jerry Brown’s victory in 2010 for a third term as governor. Apparently the real estate lobby owes the Governor in some way. What better way to do this than support his pal’s campaign for the State Assembly?
Is there someone who can tell me why special interest funding for Glazer and Sbranti’s campaigns are OK while the Koch brothers are condemned on the Senate Floor by Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid? Please explain how paying more than $20.00 a vote to elect a candidate is an acceptable practice? Even by the standards of Orinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Blackhawk, and other affluent communities in the district, this is big money for an Assembly race.
As the individuals who reside in those communities did not obtain their wealthy mansions (other than inheritance) by being stupid (well)…, how can they believe Steve Glazer is a knight in shining armour who is intent to save them from the clutches of evil public employee labor unions? Republicans contend Glazer is a wolf in sheep’s clothing to gain an edge on Sbranti’s unabashed leftwing policies, ties to unions, and the Progressive wing of the Contra Costa County Democratic Party.
Interestingly enough, Glazer’s campaign indicates the changing political landscape which increasingly defines California politics. As a brilliant strategist, Glazer realizes that the 16th District is more balanced between Democrats and Democrats than surrounding “blue” areas, thus it will be necessary to court more conservative voters. Glazer knows that in an off year election where Democrats will almost certainly lose seats nationally, it will be necessary for him to move to the right to obtain victory come November.
Finishing first or second in California’s Top Two Primary format is the first step in this process. In addition to fending off Tim Sbranti in the primary, Glazer must also contend with long time Danville City Council member Newell Arnerich. Unlike his opponents, Arnerich lacks the support of big money interests who are backing his well funded foes.
In contrast to other legislative races where Democrats are running virtually unopposed, the 16th District is no slam dunk for a Democratic candidate. Catharine Baker, a highly regarded attorney and community leader from Alamo, is the lone Republican running for the AD-16 seat. Compared to Glazer, Baker doesn’t have to change her position to appease voters who are fed up with high taxes, over regulation, job killing legislation, and ill-conceived entitlement programs. Baker will likely enter the fall race with a plurality from the June primary.
Baker’s canditdacy is being taken seriously as evidenced by her recent endorsement from the Contra Costa Times which is unusual for a Republican to receive. In addition, the Party in Contra Costa and throughout California, believe they have a strong enough candidate that can crack the monopoly on Bay Area legislative seats currently owned by Democrats. The GOP is gearing up a unified full court press to support Baker.
This contest has many similarities to the Assembly Race in Oakland in 1999, where former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris won a bitterly contested primary only to lose to the Green Party candidate Audie Bock in the general election mostly because voters were so disgusted with the mudslinging in the Democratic primary. We shall see.
The 16th District race is not the only drama to be played out in the region during 2014. In other parts of the County, different story lines are developing. In a real life game of musical chairs, Susan Bonilla D-Concord is running virtually unopposed for her Assembly Seat. Her co-traveler Senator Mark DeSaulnier D-Concord is vying for the Congressional seat to be vacated with the retirement of George Miller. Should DeSaulnier, the prohibitive favorite move on to D.C., his State Senate Seat, with two years remaining, could be filled by Bonilla or Assemblywomen Joan Buchanan. This expected special election to take place in early 2015, will pit two progressive candidates as opponents who are virtual mirror images of one another. It should be interesting to see who lines up in support of them when fundraising records are turned in.
But wait there‘s more. Should Bonilla triumph in the special election for DeSaulnier’s seat, her Assembly post will be open. If this occurs look for local politicians to come out of the woodwork to earn the right to commute to Sacramento.
Meanwhile, we will wait to see who triumphs in the Special Interests Funding Bowl in the 16th District Assembly race. With well over $2M dollars to be spent, this will likely be the lead story on election night.
At the end of the day there may be an outcry to bring back the Koch Brothers as they seem to be easier to hate than their kissing cousins in California.