Fox & Hounds--Steve Glazer, Blazing a Trail

Fox & Hounds
April 14, 2015
By Joel Fox

A Democrat will be elected in the Senate District 7 special election next month but depending on which Democrat is elected the result could change the course of California political history.

Steve Glazer, the Orinda mayor and former Jerry Brown advisor is a life long Democrat who stands for many issues the California Democratic Party endorses. He was the campaign manager for Jerry Brown’s return to the governor’s office after a three-decade absence, and he helped promote the Proposition 30 tax increase in 2012.

Yet, Glazer is more than a candidate for office. He could become a symbol of change in state politics.

Glazer has dared to stand up to the powerful public employee unions who have great influence over elected Democratic officials in the legislature. If Glazer wins his election he opens up the possibility of others challenging some of the unions’ orthodoxies in quest for improved governance.

Glazer’s challenge to the union support for tax extensions, pension reform, and his opposition to BART employee strikes places him in many public union cross hairs. They are campaigning hard to defeat him.

Yet, a Glazer victory could produce change that allows the majority Democrats to address some of the state’s pressing problems. As former state treasurer, Democrat Bill Lockyer, told a legislative hearing a few years ago, “It’s impossible for this legislature to reform the pension system and if we don’t we bankrupt the state. And I don’t think anybody can do it here because of who elected you.”

Lockyer was clearly referring to the public unions. A Glazer win would change the atmosphere under the Capitol dome. Thus, this special election is more significant that simply electing a senator to fill a term. That is why the race has attracted so much outside interest in money and reporting. It is a classic battle between the status quo and potential change.

Union sponsored mailings have attacked Glazer with charges that he is an oil and tobacco front man because he once did work for the state Chamber of Commerce whose PAC, with some funds from those industries, support Glazer’s campaign. During the primary election, a union backed effort tried to draw votes from Glazer by funding a mailer from an organization which had previously supported Democrats to encourage voters to vote for a Republican who had dropped out of the race.

There is a trace of desperation in the union campaign actions.

Some would say that the attacks against Glazer over the course of the campaign are political business as usual – the kind of stuff that turns off casual observers to politics. Maybe that’s the point. Discourage the independent-minded voter from casting a vote because they are disgusted with the political invective.

However, should Glazer withstand the onslaught he would be a reliable Democratic vote in the legislature. But, he would also be a trailblazer – independent from most Democrats who gained their seats with heavy backing from the unions — and, perhaps, opening the door for others to follow the same path.

If such a transition comes to pass, Glazer’s election might eventually be talked about along with the election of early 20th century governor Hiram Johnson, who successfully broke the grip of the railroads on the California legislature.