Orange County Register--Democrat goes rogue, feels party's wrath

March 23, 2015
By Gloria Romero

It didn’t take long for “the brotherhood” of status quo politics to pile on. Within hours of former Assembly member Joan Buchanan having lost her election bid for Northern California’s 7th Senate District seat in last week’s special election to fill the vacancy, she endorsed labor-embraced and fellow Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. Together, they joined the panoply of monied special interests led by public sector unions that are largely funding the Democratic Party, to defeat a third Democrat – independent Steve Glazer.

Glazer describes himself as “fiscally conservative, socially progressive.” He is the mayor of Orinda and former political aide to Gov. Jerry Brown. Glazer brandishes “blue” credentials in California, having worked for decades to support Democratic candidates and causes.

But a funny thing happened on the way to governing California: Glazer ran afoul of the Democratic Party establishment when he started challenging the power of public sector unions on municipal and state government. Glazer supported banning strikes by public transit workers, embraced pension reforms and campaigned to elect more business friendly Democrats.

Millions of dollars were spent to try to bury Glazer on Election Day, prompting questions on whether there is a zero tolerance policy in the Democratic party against independent-minded Democrats.

Yet, on Election Night, Glazer not only survived, but emerged as the top vote-getter. A May runoff is scheduled.

Glazer stands out because it is rare for Democrats to “go rogue” and support labor-opposed changes to teacher tenure or curbing government pensions. Despite the “big tent” image, discourse and dissent is disallowed, despite growing public support for these reforms. Party-supported candidates are reminded that the hand that feeds them comes with a demand of loyalty.

If not, as was done to Glazer, they become labeled with the equivalent of a political red-letter A: abandonment of the Democratic Party for not remaining subservient to the interests of those who fund them. Forget 50 shades – can Democrats even be allowed to display more than one shade of blue? Yet, the dirty laundry of adherence to blind allegiance has erupted into public view in recent election cycles.

Indeed, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama lost favor with the National Education Association for his support of holding teachers and schools accountable and linking student outcome data to teacher evaluations. Since then, he and his Education secretary have largely earned the wrath of national teachers unions.

In the most-recent Los Angeles mayoral election, Eric Garcetti defeated a fellow Democrat largely by portraying his opponent as blindly subservient to the city unions that had endorsed her. Today, Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces a re-election runoff due to his willingness to battle Chicago’s powerful teachers unions.

Meanwhile, in Orange County’s special election to fill another vacant state Senate seat, two Republicans battled each other. Former county Supervisor John Moorlach – the candidate who refused to accept campaign contributions from labor unions – claimed outright victory in that Republican stronghold district. His opponent, Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, was financed by labor unions who perceived him to be more allegiant to the state’s public sector unions.

The outcomes of both elections – one in a Democratic and one in a Republican stronghold district – send strong signals that voters desire to reclaim their party, and not allow candidates to be constricted to only one shade of red or blue. The challenge now is to seek independence in California’s remaining 38 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts and every statewide and constitutional office.

Staff opinion columnist Gloria Romero is an education reformer and former Democratic state senator from Los Angeles.





Editorial SF Chronicle--The center holds in East Bay special election for state Senate

March 19, 2015

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer wanted to make the special election for a state Senate seat a test on whether Bay Area Democrats were willing to expand their base to include candidates who were less than a “supersized liberal” on matters such as taxes, union influence and business environment.

The math would suggest Glazer is a slight favorite. He received more than 32 percent of the vote, compared with slightly less than 25 percent for Bonilla. The two will be competing for the votes of Democrat Joan Buchanan 22 percent) and Republican Michaela Hertle (17 percent).

Glazer, a longtime strategist to Gov. Jerry Brown, has rankled the unions for all the right reasons. He has helped elect centrist Democrats who, unlike so many of their brethren in the State Capitol, do not reflexively cater to labor’s every whim.

The deluge of outside money in the primary is certain to continue in the runoff for the district that includes a large chunk of Contra Costa County and Alameda County’s Tri-Valley. That’s the downside of this widely watched race. The upside is that Glazer has assured that voters will have a well-defined choice in this solidly Democratic district.



Capitol Alert Sac Bee--Democrats Steve Glazer, Susan Bonilla proceed to Senate runoff

March 18, 2015
By Christopher Cadelago

Democrats Steve Glazer and Susan Bonilla led a five-person field late Tuesday and are headed to a May runoff for the East Bay Senate seat vacated by Democrat Mark DeSaulnier when he took his place in Congress.

In unofficial results, Glazer, the mayor of Orinda, and Bonilla, a state assemblywoman from Concord, finished first and second, outpacing former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo in one of three special elections for the Legislature’s upper house Tuesday. The other contests were held to fill the seats of newly elected Republican Reps. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel and Steve Knight of Palmdale.

In Knight’s old 21st district, former GOP lawmaker Sharon Runner was the only candidate listed on the ballot and easily beat out several write-in candidates. Runner previously represented the region when she won a Senate special election to succeed her husband in 2011. She returns after receiving a life-saving double lung transplant for a rare autoimmune disease.

In the three-person race for Walters’ seat, Republican former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach was poised to win the race outright and avoid a May rematch with Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine. Elections officials had Moorlach drawing 51.4 percent of the vote to Wagner’s 45.1 percent in unofficial returns.

But it was the East Bay race that commanded much of the attention given the large sums spent by competing business and labor interests. The trio of top-tier candidates raised a combined $800,000, and outside interests spent $2.4 million ahead of the special election. Glazer was the top vote-getter and some 2,400 votes separated Bonilla and Buchanan. Republican Michaela Hertle and Democrat Terry Kremin rounded out the field.

For Glazer, a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, the Senate contest is a chance at redemption. His support for a ban on transit strikes and past consulting work for a business-funded campaign committee angered unions who opposed him last year in the race to succeed Buchanan in the overlapping 16th Assembly District.

Among the unknowns heading into Tuesday was whether Hertle would draw enough votes to sway the race. She withdrew from contention weeks ago and endorsed Glazer but not before her name could be removed from the ballot.

Hertle’s candidacy received $68,000 in outside spending support from the Asian American Small Business PAC, a development Glazer dismissed as an underhanded effort by public employee unions to prevent him from advancing to the May 19 runoff.

In a statement, Glazer said the results were “positive evidence that voters want a fiscally responsible bi-partisan problem solver who is independent from powerful special interests.”

He added: “The deception and manipulation by the (Bay Area Rapid Transit) unions and their allies had an impact, but failed.”




Glazer, Bonilla appear headed to runoff leading in Senate race--Contra Costa Times

March 17, 2015
By Matthew Artz

OAKLAND -- Orinda Mayor Steven Glazer and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, appear headed for a runoff that could test the power of organized labor within the Democratic Party after they claimed the top spots Tuesday in an expensive, fiercely contested primary race to succeed Rep. Mark DeSaulnier in the state Senate.

With all precincts reporting but an unknown number of mail-in ballots left to count, Glazer, a Democrat who has drawn the ire of organized labor, led with 32.7 percent of the vote. In the battle for second place, Bonilla led her former Assembly colleague Joan Buchanan 24.8 percent to 22.5 percent -- a margin of 2,249 votes. Rounding out the field were Republican Michaela Hertle with 17 percent and Democrat Terry Kremin with just over 2 percent.

"It's a positive indication that voters want a fiscally responsible bipartisan problem solver who is independent from powerful special interests," Glazer said Tuesday as early returns showed him out in front.

Bonilla, who has received strong support from labor and local Democratic Party leaders, said she was "cautiously optimistic" about advancing to the runoff as the final precinct tallies were being reported.

The runoff election will be held May 19 for the district that includes most of East and Central Contra Costa County and the Tri-Valley region of Alameda County. Analysts are expecting another business-versus-labor slugfest with special-interest money flowing to both campaigns.

"This is going to be a big fight because on paper it's so close," said Republican strategist Richard Temple of McNally Temple Associates.

The race to replace DeSaulnier, who was elected to Congress last year, initially was anticipated to pit Bonilla against Buchanan, two respected veteran lawmakers who agree on most issues and focus much of their energies on education policy.

But the dynamic changed when Glazer entered the race. A political strategist who ran Jerry Brown's successful 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Glazer, perhaps more than any Democrat in the state, has rankled organized labor. First, he worked for the Chamber of Commerce in 2012 to elect more centrist Democrats. Then while running for state Assembly last year, he called for a ban on BART strikes and ultimately backed his former Republican opponent over a pro-labor Democrat in the runoff election.

More than $2 million in outside money paid for radio commercials and a steady stream of mailers. Business and charter school supporters primarily backed Glazer, while labor unions spent especially heavily on Bonilla and against Glazer.

Interest groups were fully engaged, but voters mostly stayed on the sidelines, the returns showed. By the end of Tuesday only 20 percent of registered voters had recorded votes.

The most cynical attack on Glazer came from the Asian-American Small Business PAC, which had historically backed Democrats, but spent $55,000 on mailers urging Republicans to vote for Hertle. The pieces failed to note that Hertle had already dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer -- a move that potentially widened his appeal in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 15 percent.

"I think that backfired," Temple said. "In this district people don't take kindly to those kinds of things."

As the campaign took shape, Glazer staked out positions to the right of Buchanan and Bonilla on fiscal matters. He called for a cap on pension benefits, opposed tax hikes on oil companies and the wealthy, and reiterated his support for outlawing BART strikes.

Bonilla stressed that her collaborative approach in the Assembly she said had helped her pass key legislation including bills that overhauled the state's student testing regimen and required ride-share companies, such as Uber, to carry separate insurance policies for its drivers.

Her backers included DeSaulnier, former Rep. George Miller, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the powerful labor union, SEIU.

Buchanan benefited from about $150,000 in spending by the California Teachers Association, but found herself outgunned as the unions threw more of their support behind Bonilla. Needing to compete with her better funded opponent, Buchanan gave $75,000 to her campaign.

Election results will continue trickling in this week. Under a new state law any absentee ballot received after Election Day will be counted as long as it was postmarked by Tuesday.



CBS SF Bay Area--Glazer Takes Primary; Will Face Susan Bonilla For District 7 State Senate Seat

CBS San Francisco Bay Area
May 18, 2015

ORINDA (CBS SF) – It appears Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla will advance from in Tuesday’s primary election for a vacant state Senate seat representing parts of Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

Glazer garnered 32.8% of the vote with Susan Bonilla (24.9%) edging Joan Buchanan (22.6%). All three are registered Democrats.

The candidates are seeking the 7th state Senate district seat vacated by Mark DeSaulnier, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last November and endorsed Bonilla to replace him.

Glazer, who has served on the Orinda City Council since 2004, emphasized infrastructure improvements and education reform in his campaign literature. He made headlines in 2013 as an advocate for a statewide ban on transit strikes amid two BART strikes that year.

Bonilla, who served as a Contra Costa County supervisor and mayor of Concord prior to her election to the state Assembly in 2010, is a former high school teacher whose platform for the state Senate seat focused primarily on education, including better funding for K-12 schools.

The 7th district includes the cities of Antioch, Brentwood, Clayton, Concord, Danville, Dublin, Lafayette, Livermore, Moraga, Oakley, Orinda, Pleasanton, Pittsburg, San Ramon and Walnut Creek



Contra Costa Times / Tri-Valley Times Editorial-- Glazer is the best choice in special Senate election

Contra Costa Times / East County Times / San Ramon Valley Times / Tri-Valley Times Editorial
March 16, 2015

Voters in the 7th state Senate District should not let slimy campaign advertising fool them or discourage them from casting their ballots in an important special election Tuesday.

Polls throughout the district, which includes the Tri-Valley and most of Central and East Contra Costa, will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those with absentee ballots can take them to the polls or they can still mail them in. Under a new state law, they will be counted as long as they are postmarked by Tuesday.

The election will fill a seat vacated by Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who replaced retired Rep. George Miller in Congress. If no one receives a majority, the runoff between the top two finishers will follow on May 19.

Five names are listed on the ballot, but only four, all Democrats, are actually running and only three are serious contenders. The only Republican dropped out early.

Our recommendation: Steve Glazer, the most centrist of the three candidates. An Orinda councilman, California State University trustee and Gov. Jerry Brown’s former political adviser, he has appealed to Republicans, independents and Democrats alike.

Glazer has called for prohibiting BART strikes, worked to elect moderate Democratic candidates and crossed party lines last year to back Republican Catharine Baker, another centrist politician.

If you want an independent-thinking state senator, he’s your candidate. But if you want someone who will blindly tow the labor line as most Democrats in Sacramento do, he’s not.

Labor leaders know that. That’s why they’ve gone after him with a deceptive campaign of hit pieces, some under the guise of a group called the “Asian American Small Business PAC.”

In mailers to Democrats, they claim Glazer is too conservative. To Republicans, they brand him a tax-and-spend liberal and urge them to instead support the Republican listed on the ballot.

Note to Republicans: Don’t be fooled. Not only did that GOP candidate, Michaela Hertle, drop out of the race early, she also endorsed Glazer, which should tell you something about his bipartisan appeal.

That’s especially important in this district, which is unusually centrist for the Bay Area. While Democrats comprise 44 percent of registration, half the voters are Republicans or independent.

Well over half the voters in the district received absentee ballots.

But as of late last week, only about one-fourth of those ballots had been returned.

There’s still time to mail in your ballot. Or, go to the polls on Tuesday.

For voter questions in Contra Costa, call 925-335-7800 or go to In Alameda County, call 510-267-8683 or go to



[Contra Costa Times circulates in Clayton, Concord, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pacheco and Walnut Creek.]

[East County Times circulates in Antioch, Bay Point, Byron, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley and Pittsburg.]

[San Ramon Valley Times circulates in Alamo, Blackhawk, Danville, Diablo and San Ramon.]

[Tri-Valley Times circulates in Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and Sunol.]


Capitol Journal, LA Times--Unions play hardball in Bay Area Senate race

Capitol Journal
Los Angeles Times
March 15, 2015
By George Skelton

"Childish" aptly describes a hot legislative race to be decided Tuesday. No, it's worse. It's like mob bosses executing payback.

Actually, it's old-fashioned dirty politics. Think "Tricky Dick" Nixon in his early California campaigns.

This is an ugly throwback but with a difference. The candidates are relatively clean and classy. The culprits are some bankrolling special interests, mainly unions.

It's what can happen when the law allows unbridled campaign spending by interests independent of the candidates — by so-called independent expenditure committees.

These mobs too often end up reflecting badly on the candidates they're pushing while trying to whack the opponents.

Voter registration mirrors the state, heavily favoring Democrats: 44% Democrat, 29% Republican and 22% independent.

It's an upper-middle-class region of highly educated white-collar commuters. It'll be interesting to see whether they fall for the blarney being spewed by a few win-at-any-cost political assassins.

The principal candidates are three Democrats: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, 54, a former teacher, county supervisor and mayor; former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, 62, a longtime school board member; and Steve Glazer, 57, a mayor and political strategist.

Bonilla and Buchanan both have been quality legislators.

Bonilla attracts the backing of several interests, I suspect, because she heads the powerful Assembly Business and Professions Committee. It handles lots of regulatory legislation. She's heavily backed by dentists and also draws support from doctors and some unions, including firefighters and municipal employees.

Buchanan once chaired the Assembly Education Committee and is strongly supported by the California Teachers Assn. She also pulls other labor support, from municipal workers and carpenters.

Labor despises Glazer, who has business and charter school backing.

He's essentially a Jerry Brown Democrat. But unlike the governor, he doesn't hesitate speaking out even if his views rankle core party constituencies.

Glazer was a longtime Brown family political advisor. He worked on Kathleen Brown's failed gubernatorial race in 1994, and she now endorses him. He also was the chief strategist for Jerry Brown's gubernatorial victory in 2010 and his successful tax hike measure in 2012. But cowed by labor, the governor hasn't been standing by his former aide.

One reason Glazer angered labor is that two years ago he advocated a ban on transit strikes, as they are in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Glazer's opposition to transit strikes, however, is being distorted by the California Teachers Assn., which implies in a mailer that he wants to ban all strikes by any union.

But the origin of this street fight dates back three years to a Los Angeles classroom. You probably remember a teacher being arrested and later convicted of spoon-feeding his semen to blindfolded children.

A bill soon passed the Senate making it easier for schools to fire such creeps. But it fell one vote short in the Assembly Education Committee because the teachers union adamantly opposed it. Then-Assemblywoman Betsy Butler of Santa Monica abstained.

Glazer had been advising Brown on politics, but the cheap governor wasn't paying him. So Glazer accepted a lucrative job with the state Chamber of Commerce helping it elect Brown-like, business-friendly Democrats.

The Glazer-aided chamber backed Butler's reelection opponent, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, and hammered the incumbent hard for refusing to support the teacher-firing bill. Bloom won. So did another moderate Democrat helped by Glazer: Marc Levine of San Rafael, who also ousted a labor-backed incumbent.

Blasphemous and disloyal, charged the teachers union and all of labor. The California Labor Federation blackballed Glazer and slapped him on its "do not hire" list.

Glazer last year ran for the Assembly and was smeared by labor. A liberal teachers union leader beat him in the primary, a payback victory for labor. But a moderate Republican, Catherine Baker, ultimately won the seat that Glazer probably would have, helping cost Democrats their supermajority.

Now Glazer is hoping to attract enough moderate Dems, Republicans and independents to get into a runoff against a more liberal Democrat. There's a Republican on the ballot, businesswoman Michaela Hertle, but she long ago gave up and endorsed Glazer.

That hasn't stopped some unions — including firefighters and municipal employees — from financing cynical mailers to Republican voters touting Hertle as "the real deal," hoping to draw GOP support from Glazer. How cynical? The union-funded mailer claims "there are just too many Democrats in the state Senate."

The flier was sent out by the Asian American Small Business political committee, headed by a longtime Democratic operative.

Vindictive unions also are financing mailers to Democratic voters claiming Glazer is a "sellout" for opposing — as Brown does — the extension of the governor's temporary tax hike. And they're sending conflicting mailers to GOP households blasting Glazer for being the tax increase "mastermind."

Retired Manhattan Beach businessman Bill Bloomfield, a political independent, has poured roughly $600,000 into promoting Glazer, he says, "to help a good man overcome the noise from the monied special interests."

One of two loud messages will be sent by the election results: Democrats no longer need to cower from bully labor. Or, they'd better fall in line or else.



LA Times--Bay Area state Senate race pits unions against Democrat Steve Glazer

Los Angeles Times
March 15, 2015
By Cathleen Decker

War has broken out in the neatly tended suburbs east of San Francisco Bay, over a simple question: Is only one kind of Democrat allowed in blue California?

In a special election for a single seat in the state Senate, millions of dollars have been spent in a pitched battle for the answer.

The combatants are organized labor and a man it has spent three years trying to bury, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, an unlikely foe given his lifelong role as a political strategist for labor-backed Democrats and their causes. The only reason Glazer may survive Tuesday's election is that he has some moneyed guardian angels who have pumped in hundreds of thousands of dollars on his behalf.

It's not about Democrats versus Republicans. It's now back to what type of Democrat is an acceptable Democrat.- Steve Glazer, mayor of Orinda, Calif.

In Walnut Creek and Concord and the neighboring environs, voters are being barraged with messages decried by the opposing side as nasty or misleading or flat-out devious. It's all that and more, powered by money, money and more money.

"From the outside people say, 'California, this great blue state,'" Glazer said. "When you look beneath the surface it is not so cozy. It's not about Democrats versus Republicans. It's now back to what type of Democrat is an acceptable Democrat."

Or, as labor leaders would put it, it's about preserving the gains for which they have long fought — against Democrats, if need be, just as they have fought against Republicans.

"We will continue to educate voters … about the candidate's views on issues critical to our members, confident the vast majority of voters share our middle-class agenda," said Jon Youngdahl, executive director of SEIU California, the coordinator of the biggest anti-Glazer effort.

The stakes are huge in every direction. For Democrats like Glazer who have embraced labor-opposed changes to teacher tenure or government pensions, it is about retaining a foothold in a party where union views are dominant. (His biggest benefactor, Bill Bloomfield, a wealthy Southern California businessman, backs education changes fought by unions, one of the reasons he cites for spending more than half a million dollars to boost Glazer.)

Union-inflected free-for-alls have surfaced in several recent races.

Two years ago, Eric Garcetti defeated fellow Democrat Wendy Greuel to become mayor of Los Angeles by exploiting her support from public employee unions. Similar conflicts arose this year in Chicago, where Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel was forced into an April runoff by a relative unknown backed by teachers' unions.

The divide may play out in the 2018 race for governor if former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is among the Democratic candidates. Villaraigosa angered unions as he sought to keep the city afloat during the recession.

The vitriol surrounding Glazer started in 2012, two years after he helped shepherd Gov. Jerry Brown into office, when Glazer was placed on the state labor federation's "do not hire" list for supporting Democratic alternatives to two union-backed candidates.

In 2014, he ran for an Assembly seat but lost when labor girded against him. That race served as the template for this year's state Senate warfare, with a few twists tossed in.

Much of organized labor is backing Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. Teachers and home-building trades have sided with former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. Both are Democrats; the sole Republican in the race, Michaela Hertle, withdrew and endorsed Glazer. But her name remains on the ballot, which has given rise to one of the weirder aspects of the campaign.

It's a rare turn when the state Republican Party files suit against an organization that is asking people to vote for a Republican, but that is what happened last week. GOP officials cited the unauthorized use of the party's symbol, the elephant, on pro-Hertle mailers. State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte, in a statement, said the committee's mailers were meant to "intentionally deceive."

Not so, said Bill Wong of the PAC, who called the suit "frivolous" and Hertle's candidacy still viable.

The biggest labor effort against Glazer includes a website that tars him as the handmaiden of a Chamber of Commerce PAC for which he worked in 2012, "a committee funded by tobacco, oil, pharmaceutical and insurance companies. He represents special interests, NOT YOU."

It says nothing about his 40 years in the Democratic vineyards, working for candidates who shared labor's goals.

That has left Glazer and other blackballed Democrats looking on with a mix of horror and chagrin. Gloria Romero, a former state senator from East Los Angeles who has endorsed Glazer, noted that she voted with labor almost 100% of the time but still fell out of favor over her support for giving parents more power in education.

"You challenge on particular issues that are critical to you, whether pension reform or education reform, and it's kind of like a new take on zero tolerance," she said.



SF Chronicle Opinion--Why we endorsed Steve Glazer in Senate District 7 (March 17 election)

San Francisco Chronicle
March 16, 2015
By John Diaz

The race to succeed U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier for an East Bay seat in the California Senate has become a battle among three very capable Democrats: Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, state Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and former state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. Glazer has tried to make this a referendum on whether there is room in the Democratic party — indeed, in the California Legislature — for centrists who are willing to challenge party orthodoxy and work with Republicans when needed to get things done. We think such voices are too scarce in the State Capitol.

Here is our editorial board’s endorsement of Glazer.

Not surprisingly, organized labor has no interest in added such independent thinkers to the Democrat-ruled Legislature — especially one who has (quite sensibly) suggested that BART is such an essential service (and vital to the economy, the environment and public safety) that its workers should not be allowed to strike (as in the case of other major cities). The union tactics to undermine Glazer’s campaign have been among the most disingenuous I’ve seen in years. Check out this story by Carla Marinucci on one especially insidious campaign tactic. As the candidates came to our editorial board interviews, we asked each of them after the meeting to give a one-minute pitch for their candidacies. Scroll down and check them out:

Susan Bonilla, Candidate For SD 7

Steve Glazer, Candidate For SD 7
Joan Buchanan, Candidate For SD 7

KQED--Will Republicans Decide East Bay’s Democratic Senate Slugfest?

March 12, 2015
By John Myers

If you wanted to find a true party line voter, Henry Gannett is your man. The Orinda resident says the last Democrat he voted for was Alan Cranston for state controller …  in 1962. Until now, that is.

And it’s Republicans that may be the key constituency in filling a reliably Democratic state Senate seat on March 17, one left vacant by the election of U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) to Congress.

Five candidates are on the ballot in the state’s 7th Senate District, which stretches across Contra Costa and Alameda counties. But the race essentially comes down to just three Democrats: Susan Bonilla, an incumbent assemblywoman from Concord; Joan Buchanan, a former assemblywoman from Alamo; and Steve Glazer, the mayor of Orinda.

If no one wins a majority of the votes cast next week, the top two finishers move on to a runoff on May 19. And almost everyone agrees: This race will keep going.

Republicans Wooed By Candidates, Big Money

So who did Henry Gannett, the reliable Republican, vote for?

“We both voted for Steve Glazer,” said Gannett in a recent interview about the choice he and his wife made. “He won’t be as far out as the other candidates who are trying to get my vote.”

Glazer, the former campaign manager for Gov. Jerry Brown, believes his campaign is well suited to appeal to Republicans. But it’s also undoubtedly a political necessity — due, in part, to the criticism he’s received over the last few years from Democrats and the party’s traditional interest groups.

In 2012, Glazer was a campaign consultant to a business-backed political action committee that helped defeat two incumbent Democrats in the state Assembly. He was subsequently blacklisted by organized labor — a fight that spilled into Glazer’s unsuccessful Assembly bid in 2014.

Whether all of that is good or bad for constituents in this district remains a source of debate.

“They want someone they can control in the Legislature,” said Glazer in an interview, sitting outside an Orinda restaurant. “And I’m not their guy.”

Challenger Susan Bonilla, though, says what Glazer sees as independence is more like isolation.

“Being a party of one isn’t a way to get anything done,” she said on Wednesday. “It’s great if you want to sit by yourself and eat lunch alone, but it’s not going to represent our region well.”

Nonetheless, a race with three major Democrats (a fourth newcomer Democrat, Terry Kremin, is also running) means the district’s dominant party will likely split into pieces when the votes are tallied. Democrats have a 15-point registration advantage over Republicans, but GOP voters represent a major prize — and perhaps, will cast the deciding ballots.

Research from the for-profit voting research firm Political Data Inc. shows that 15-point gap has narrowed to just 9 points in ballots already cast by mail; put another way, Republicans are casting a disproportionately large percentage of the ballots.

The GOP candidate on the ballot, Michaela Hertle, dropped out of the race in February and endorsed Glazer. In the weeks since, hundreds of thousands of dollars of independent mailers have been delivered to Republican voters — most of them focused squarely on Glazer.

That includes pro-Glazer efforts by Southern California businessmanBill Bloomfield and a $200,000 effort by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It also includes anti-Glazer efforts, most notably from a political action committee often aligned with Democrats that’s now being sued for a mailer using the familiar elephant logo associated with the GOP.

Two Democrats Vie For Party’s Loyalty

Meantime, the two mainstream Democrats — Bonilla and Buchanan — are waging more traditional campaigns to the party’s base voters.

Bonilla has the endorsement of the state Democratic Party, and has been the most successful in raising money. Buchanan has the endorsement of the powerful California Teachers Association and is well-known, due to her former Assembly district sitting squarely inside the boundaries of the Senate district.

“Name recognition, and the reputation I have, is a distinct advantage,” said Buchanan last weekend at an event with her supporters in the Blackhawk community outside Danville.

Both women pledge to work on education issues, continuing their efforts on that front in the Legislature. Both also support an extension of the temporary taxes in 2012’s Proposition 30.

Experience is also a key talking point for each of these Democrats.

“It’s critical for the voter to weigh what job has already been accomplished and whether this person can actually be effective,” said Bonilla.

Another GOP voter contacted for this story, Steve Jones, said he decided to vote for Bonilla based on a friend’s recommendation, but said he liked all three of the major candidates — with special praise for Glazer.

“I think Steve Glazer probably has the character and fight that most closely fits my ‘Best Candidate’ view of the three Democrats,” he wrote in an email.

Special elections for the Legislature are historically low turnout affairs — which means a handful of the district’s 488,596 voters will decide the race.

And that’s why Buchanan is focusing on her loyal base of support.

“We’ve been treating this like a kind of grass-roots election,” Buchanan told a group of 50 or so supporters last week gathered in the backyard of Lori and Paul Garcia. “We know turnout’s going to be low, and we depend on people to talk to their friends and make sure they vote.”