By Tim Hunt
New wrinkles in the race for 7th SenateUploaded: Jan 27, 2015
The race to fill the final two years of Congressman Mark DeSaulnier's state Senate term took a major turn when a third Democrat, Steve Glazer of Orinda, filed for the primary and the lone announced Republican bowed out.
Glazer joins the other declared Democrat candidates, former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo and current Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord as well as Terry Kremin of Concord.
The bigger surprises is that attorney Mark Meuser of Walnut Creek, who declared his intention to run shortly after DeSaulnier won the Congressional seat, decided not to enter. Meuser lost to DeSaulnier in 2010 and announced he will not run writing that he had concluded he could not win the seat. Given a 15-point Democrat edge in the district, that was prudent.
He wrote in a press release to supporters, "Running for the special election was going to be like running a marathon at a sprinters pace. It was going to be very difficult and a wise man counts the cost before they build a wall lest they get half way through and discover that they do not have the resources to finish. A close examination of how this election was shaping up revealed that the odds of winning were growing to almost impossible."
Ironically, had he filed to run, he would have been a near cinch to make the run-off simply by winning the Republican votes and some independents, while the three Democrats carved up their voters. Now we likely will have an all-Democrat run-off?the primary will determine which two, if the only Republican, Michaela M. Hertle of Pleasanton, doesn't hold serve in that party. If she does, what a battle between the three Democrats who have served in elective office.
You probably recall that Glazer finished third in the brutal primary race for the 16th Assembly seat last June in a race dominated by special interest money. Former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti topped three other Democrats (Glazer and Danville Councilman Newell Arnerich) and then lost the general election to Republican Catharine Baker. Baker received the most votes in the primary by "holding serve" with the Republicans. Incidentally, the Democrats hold a 7-point edge in registration.
Last year, Glazer took an aggressive position against BART strikes and the high-speed rail, positions opposite those of Sbranti.
His entry will shift the dynamics. Each candidate has a stronghold (the Highway 24 corridor for Glazer, the San Ramon Valley for Buchanan and Concord for Bonilla). A survey by Garin-Hart-Yang research taken for Buchanan's campaign showed numbers that were quite positive for Buchanan. Her name recognition at 65 percent topped even DeSaulnier's (61 percent) and was nearly twice Bonilla's (33 percent). Glazer was at 49 percent?no doubt because of all of the ads from last May-- with a 16-13 split on the favorability index.
Buchanan was viewed favorably by 31 percent with 12 percent negative, while Boniilla was at 14-5 percent. Incidentally, new Assembly woman Catharine Baker was known by 53 percent with a 26-9 favorability edge.
One key for Buchanan is her Assembly district covers 56 percent of the 7th Senate district and that doesn't include the Brentwood/Oakley area that she represented for four years before redistricting in 2012 changed the boundaries. Incidentally, the 16th Assembly had the highest voter turnout in the state in last fall's election that was notable for dismal statewide turnout.
Bonilla, who was re-elected to the Assembly in November, has been pushing out press releases about her endorsements. She has lined up a bunch, including DeSaulnier (like her a former Concord council member, Contra Costa supervisor and assembly member) and former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher as well as a number of labor unions. Buchanan counters by pointing out how many local elected officials are backing her candidacy. When the two faced off for the Tri-Valley Democrats group, Buchanan won the endorsement.
In a conversation with Buchanan, she reiterated that she expects 80 percent of the vote to be cast by mail-in ballots well before the St. Patrick's Day election. In contrast to the Southern California election to replace Rod Wight, a convicted felon, that saw just a seven percent turnout, Buchanan expects turnout will be in the mid-20s to perhaps 30 percent. With rare exception, it will be people who vote every time.
The Senate district includes the Tri-Valley, eastern Contra Costa County, Concord, Walnut Creek and the Lafayette-Moraga-Orinda corridor.
The field for retiring Senator Barbara Boxer's seat next year was winnowed again last week when climate activist Tom Steyer announced he would not get into the race. Attorney General Kamala Harris is the top contender, particularly now that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Steyer and Congressman Eric Swalwell all have bowed out with Newsom and Harris backing Harris.
Steyer has spent more than $100 million on federal races trying to elevate climate change as a key issue as well as about one-third of that on an initiative to change California's corporate tax to funnel money into environmental causes. Steyer made his money in financial services.