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By Tim Hunt

Big money flowing in selected primaries

Uploaded: Jun 3, 2014

This week we should learn how voters regarded the big money poured into the heated primary campaign to succeed Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan in Sacramento. She is termed out this year.
Veteran local politicians (Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, Danville Councilman and Mayor Newell Arnerich and Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer) are battling as Democrats against Pleasanton attorney Catharine Baker, a Republican, who is making her first run at elected office
The big money has poured into this race on behalf of Sbranti (California Teachers Association and other unions) and Glazer (Realtors and other business interests). A total of nearly $4 million has been spent by independent groups compared to just about $800,000 for the four candidates' official campaigns.
Arnerich decided to skip the big money fray and rely on a grassroots campaign. With turnout expected to be very low, that strategy has a chance of getting him into the top two who will run-off in November. Baker should be well situated to make it through to the general election if she dominates the Republican vote—and traditionally Republicans are more likely to vote in the primaries, particularly off-year races.
Sbranti's former boss when he was in the Assembly, state schools chief Tom Torlakson, is locked into the largest spending primary with Marshall Tuck of Los Angeles. Barring some major surprise, June will serve as a warm-up for a no-holds barred November race pitting the two. Spending from independent groups (again the teachers union for Torlakson, like Sbranti a teacher) has expended nearly $4.2 million. The largest donors to the independent expenditure groups are the statewide teachers union and the service employees union.
These Assembly races are significant because the winner in November has the opportunity to serve 12 years in that house.
Big money also is pouring into the 17th Congressional race where attorney Ro Khanna is challenging incumbent Mike Honda. Honda has picked up the endorsements from most major Democratic elected officials and has strong union support, while Khanna is backed by Silicon Valley executives. He practices law at a major South Bay law firm deeply connected to the technology companies.
The two are expected to face off in the fall, as likely will Congressman Eric Swalwell and termed out state Senator Ellen Corbett. Swalwell, who knocked off 20-term incumbent Pete Stark two years ago with significant local endorsements but no major party endorsements. This time around Swalwell has picked up the Democrat establishment support and has been campaigning hard. Khanna originally started positioning himself to run against Swalwell before deciding to challenge Honda. This is only the second election in the districts that were redrawn after the 2010 census so long-time incumbents do not have quite the advantage that they typically do.
Like in the Honda-Khanna primary, there's little chance of a Republican running well enough to slip into the top two.