The campaign leading up to November’s elections may be unlike any other ever seen. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, political campaigns will likely have to adjust to the new realities of an era that eschews crowds and promotes social distancing. How will the potential absence of door-to-door campaigning, the typical life-blood of any campaign, affect each race? Will candidate forums become virtual debates?
Time will only tell, but in the meantime, a number of notable fall races are already ramping up for November. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors runoff between Vinnie Bacon and David Haubert is shaping up as a possible rough-and-tumble battle between two challengers few believed would be in the position of vying for one of the most sought-after seats in local government.
The local primary’s marquee matchup in the Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 1 race was unpredictable as advertised. Fremont Councilmember Bacon’s ground game and anti-developer rhetoric resulted in a stunning first-place finish. Bacon’s 27 percent of the vote topped Dublin Mayor Haubert, who won nearly 26 percent. Since no candidates reached a simple majority of the vote, Bacon and Haubert will meet in a very unlikely runoff in November. Early conventional wisdom predicted the top two in the race would be state Sen. Bob Wieckowski and Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez. In fact, all four candidates secured at least 20 percent of the total vote. While Hernandez fell short of the runoff by a few hundred votes, Wieckowski took just 21.61 of the vote, a poor performance for the long-time state legislator. Alameda County Supervisors Nate Miley and Keith Carson both easily won re-election. In the lone Alameda County Superior Court race, Elena Condes led the three-candidate field with 41 percent. She will face Mark Fickes, who followed with 38 percent, in the runoff.
Four years ago, Amber Childress upset the incumbent Alameda County Board of Education trustee in Alameda’s Area 2 in a nailbiter. A similarly tight race materialized this time around, yet with a different result. Angela Normand, the candidate backed by public school advocates and teachers, eked out a victory over Childress by three percentage points. In Hayward’s Area 5, the heavily backed charter school candidate, Janevette Cole, won nearly 45 percent of the vote, besting current Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso’s 38 percent. Unlike other county primary races, board of education races are decided by a plurality of votes, the registrar’s office said.
A number of local ballot measures had some communities in the East Bay riveted by the slow steady climb toward the required two-thirds majorities for passage. Oakland’s Measure Q parcel tax to fund park maintenance began Election Night underwater in the early 60 percent range before barrelling toward the needed 66.67 percent of the vote on successive vote-count updates. As more progressive-leaning provisional ballots were counted in the county, Measure Q, despite being heavily outspent by real estate interests, ultimately prevailed with 68 percent of the vote. The scene was similar in the city of Alameda, where Measure A, a parcel tax to fund increased pay for local teachers, appeared headed toward a demoralizing defeat. Unlike Oakland’s parcel tax measure, Alameda’s moved slowly toward its goal of a two-thirds majority before passing the threshold with a few hundred votes to spare at 67.10 percent. Others were also successful. San Leandro’s school bond Measure N needed just 55 percent to pass. It received support from nearly 64 percent of San Leandrans. But while Alameda County voters were strongly supportive of Measure C, the sales tax increase to fund early education, voters in the unincorporated areas narrowly turned away Measure D, a bond sought by the Alameda County Fire Department to fund new fire stations. Measure D came excruciatingly close with 66.37 percent of the vote, just a few votes shy of passage.
In the state Legislature, most of the East Bay’s November races will feature heavily favored incumbents against underfunded Republicans. Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the Democrat who represents Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro will again face Republican Stephen Slauson. Bonta has faced Slauson twice in successive election cycles. Bonta took home nearly 90 percent of the vote this month, a figure similar to their previous contests. First-term Contra Costa County and Tri-Valley Democratic Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan won 68 percent of the vote this month over Republican Joe Rubay. They, too, will have a November rematch. Another first-term assemblymember, Buffy Wicks in the 15th District, will face Sara Brink, a No Party Preference filmmaker. While Wicks garnered 83 percent of the vote, Brink outlasted Republican Joanne Solnordal to snag a place in the top two primary with more than 1,000 votes to spare. State Sen. Steve Glazer will draw Republican Julie Mosley in November. Glazer won 48 percent of the vote, Mosley 27 percent. A bid from Glazer’s left by a progressive named Marisol Rubio, who won 24 percent of the vote, fell short. Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk, however, was not as lucky in escaping a challenge from his own party. Berniecrat Alexis Villalobos’ come-from-behind performance clinched a surprising place in the top two over the Republican Nguyen. Although Quirk is a prohibitive favorite to win re-election, the three-term assemblymember’s inability to crack 50 percent in the primary was notable.
The three congressional races in Alameda County were equally moribund. Thirteenth District Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee won nearly 93 percent of the primary vote over Republican Nikka Piterman. 17th District Rep. Eric Swalwell led a field of six challengers with 59 percent. He will face Republican Alison Hayden, who won 17 percent of the vote, in November. In the Fremont and South Bay 17th District, Rep. Ro Khanna bested the field with almost 69 percent of the vote. Khanna will face Republican Ritesh Tandon. Despite the likely mismatch in November, there could be some bad blood between the Indian American candidates. On Election Night, Khanna described his opponent as anti-Muslim. Tandon has been relentless in making the election less about local and federal issues and more about Khanna’s decision to join the Pakistan Caucus in Congress, a move that rankled some conservative Indian Americans in the district.
Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid’s decision to not seek re-election this year opens up his East Oakland District 7 seat for the first time since 1996. However, a Reid is still likely to appear on the November ballot. Treva Reid, his daughter, has entered the race. Her interest in her father’s council seat has long been known. Six others have already registered intents to run to replace Larry Reid, including three former Oakland mayoral also-rans, Ken Houston, Marcie Hodge, and Marchon Tatmon. Bishop Bob Jackson, the high-profile pastor at Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church is also interested.
The Alameda City Council is destined to yet again re-litigate the 2017 controversy between the former city manager who surreptitiously recorded two councilmembers that she believed were violating the city’s charter. Those two councilmembers, Jim Oddie and Malia Vella, are up for re-election in the city’s at-large election for two open seats on the five-person council. The balance of power currently leaning progressive on the Alameda City Council could be up-for-grabs. That’s because former Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer has indicated interest in running since last year.
A similar dynamic may occur in Hayward, where its city council has leaned moderate for decades despite being one of the most union-friendly populations in the East Bay. Four at-large seats are available in November and one of the incumbents has already said he will not run for re-election. A whopping nine candidates have already shown official interest in running. The election could give a clear signal as to whether Hayward is indeed on the path toward becoming one of the East Bay next progressive city councils.
Rep. DeSaulnier in critical condition
East Bay Rep. Mark DeSaulnier is in critical condition with pneumonia, his congressional office announced Saturday. DeSaulnier, 67, was hospitalized on Mar. 13 after suffering a fall while running. His ribs were fractured due to the accident.
But his condition has worsened, Betsy Marr, DeSaulnier’s chief of staff said. “The doctors are doing everything they can to care for the Congressman,” she said. “Mark’s family and staff appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.” He tested negative for the coronavirus, Marr said.
DeSaulnier was elected in 2014 to the Contra Costa County 11th Congressional District seat before serving in the state Senate and the state Assembly. He also served as a Contra Costa County supervisor. During DeSaulnier’s first term in Congress he was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent chemotherapy treatments. He declared himself cancer free in May 2016.
In Other News …
PG&E pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its involvement in the wildfires that leveled Paradise, Calif. in 2018, the Los Angeles Times reports. The utility will pay $3.5 million.