"It's the most wonderful time of the year," echoes sarcastically in my mind these days. No, not because Costco is already in full Christmas mode weeks before Halloween even hits.
That's right, election season is here -- and it's a presidential year to boot. Which, as of 2020, means the primary election in California arrives in March, instead of June, so our state can have more of a say about who the final White House candidates will be.
I know that is the schedule now, but I still felt shocked into reality when the press release arrived about the candidacy nomination period opening Sept. 14 from the Contra Costa County Elections Division (although the state-set deadlines are the same, I haven't gotten any such public notice from the notoriously quiet Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office ... luckily I'm well-versed in scouring their website).
For our Tri-Valley voters in Alameda County, the big local races will be county supervisor, superior court judgeships and Zone 7 Water Agency. That will be in addition to important state and federal positions -- and possibly special ballot issues, if deadlines are met.
We've already been told that longtime District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents part of Pleasanton, is seeking reelection and will have a challenger in Ashland nurse Jennifer Esteen, who competed unsuccessfully for State Assembly District 20 finishing third in a four-candidate primary in 2022.
District 1 Supervisor David Haubert, who represents Dublin, Livermore and parts of Pleasanton and Sunol, is running for a second term. I haven't seen any challengers come forward yet, but I'm keeping my eye out. The filing period, known as "signatures-in-lieu", is open until Nov. 8.
Time will also tell about which, if any, Alameda County Superior Court judgeships might be contested on the March 5, 2024 ballot.
As for Zone 7, which is increasingly relevant to local residents amid water supply and PFAS contamination concerns, there will be three regular full terms on the ballot (positions currently held by Sandy Figuers, Laurene Green and Angela Ramirez Holmes).
There will also be a special two-year term on the ballot for the Zone 7 seat currently held by former Pleasanton councilmember Kathy Narum following the resignation of ex-director Olivia Sanwong to join the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors.
For our voters in Contra Costa County, District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville is pursuing reelection, with no challengers publicized so far. There will be 14 superior court judgeships up for election to six-year terms as well.
Of the larger offices on local ballots in March, both seats in the State Senate will be particularly intriguing with each being contested without an incumbent running -- reminder, the Tri-Valley is being split into two separate districts, and this is the first election for these positions after redistricting in 2021, with the new maps taking effect after the winners are sworn in at the end of 2024.
Incumbent Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), who currently represents the whole Tri-Valley, said he will not run for reelection to the newly redrawn State Senate District 9, declining to test the state's term limit law which would come into play for him midway through a potential 2024-28 term. District 9 will include the San Ramon Valley, Lamorinda, central Contra Costa County and San Leandro and Castro Valley in Alameda County.
Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore will become part of the new State Senate District 5, along with communities to the east over the Altamont Pass including Tracy, Stockton, Lodi and Manteca. Incumbent Sen. Susan Eggman is ineligible to run again due to term limits.
Just who will come out to battle for these critical positions in the state's upper legislative house? The list of experienced officials could be long ... we'll see.
Wondering if one such name for State Senate District 9 could be Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, the Tri-Valley's current representative for State Assembly District 16, I reached out to her press team to clarify whether she'll run for reelection to the lower house or perhaps seek a higher office in March. "No announcements yet," I was told.
The Assembly District 20 seat, which Liz Ortega won in 2022 to represent western Pleasanton and western Dublin among other East Bay cities, will be contested in the new year too.
Both Tri-Valley congressmen, U.S. Reps. Mark DeSaulnier (District 10) and Eric Swalwell (District 14), are up for reelection as usual every two years.
And the eyes of the nation will be on California as our voters decide which two candidates will advance to the November general election to succeed Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate. Monte Vista High School alumnus Adam Schiff, now a congressman from Burbank, is among the hopefuls.
There is always the possibility of special election issues finding their way onto the primary election ballot, though nothing like that appears solidified yet in the Tri-Valley.
While I thought the issue had died for consideration in March in favor of less-expensive consolidation with the regular municipal election in November 2024, it sounds like the Dublin City Council is still thinking about adding possible changes to the city's term limit law to the primary election. If it passed in the primary, such a measure could allow Mayor Melissa Hernandez to seek reelection in the fall.
Oh, and of course there's the potential recall of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price.
We learned last month that critics of the progressive, first-year DA filed to pursue a recall petition, but it's unclear whether they're targeting the March primary -- let alone if they can get the support to hit their target.
I have no desire to touch that third-rail debate with a 10-foot pole at this point, except to apply one of my general political observations to Price's predicament: As much as she seems to point the finger anywhere and everywhere else these past weeks, if a DA recall petition does get on the ballot, she'll have no one to blame but herself.
Leaving some victims and families feeling like they're deprioritized in their quest for justice, alienating some internal staffers and outside police officials, releasing many a prerecorded video statement with distinctly dystopian vibes instead of open news conferences and limiting access to news media to interviews and once-commonly shared case documents are just a few of the avoidable missteps I've witnessed from the first-time elected official.
Speaking of preventable PR problems, soon after the recall proponents filed to begin their petition effort, the county's public information officer emailed out a press release at 4:55 p.m. Aug. 16 from the office of County Counsel Donna Ziegler:
"The County of Alameda has learned that the Registrar of Voters (ROV) received a Notice of Intention to circulate a petition to recall District Attorney Pamela Price. The ROV has not been required to conduct a recall election targeting a County of Alameda official for at least the past 30 years, if ever. The ROV is currently analyzing the relationship between the recall provisions set forth in the County Charter and those found in State law to determine the path and timeline for conducting a recall of a County officer. The ROV will provide further details to the public regarding the recall procedures once that work is complete, without delay."
I almost spit out my afternoon coffee laughing. I usually applaud people admitting when they don't know something and need more time to research, but how could these county professionals not already understand the specifics of their recall process, especially when loud rumors were flying for months that resident groups wanted to oust Price before her term ended?
It's been over a month and I still haven't seen an answer to these questions publicized yet. Wonderful.
Editor's note: A prior version of this article incorrectly described the State Senate districts in effect for the Tri-Valley on the 2024 election ballot. After redistricting in 2021, the Tri-Valley will be split into two State Senate districts effective after this election: District 9 including the San Ramon Valley and District 5 including Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore. We regret the error.