Sacramento Bee: State Senate candidate says most Democrats intimidated by ‘powerful interests’

Sacramento Bee
February 3, 2015
By David Siders

Steve Glazer, the former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown and, years ago, Brown’s sister Kathleen, said he isn’t angry.

But the pounding he took from organized labor in his Assembly race last year must still sting: Glazer thumbed through a collection of attack ads for the audience at a political conference over the weekend and acknowledged “they tend to take a toll on a candidate.”

For Glazer, who has used Democratic Party politics for decades to his advantage, the result is a measure of disillusionment.

During a panel conversation on the impact of California’s top-two electoral system Friday, Glazer said Democrats who disagree with labor unions on school, budget and pension issues have been “demonized” by influential elements of their own party.

“The Democratic Party is controlled by some very powerful interests,” Glazer said at the forum, organized by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, “and most Democrats who have ambition are intimidated by that circumstance.”

In his Assembly race last year, labor unions backing Democrat Tim Sbranti worked against Glazer, a more conservative Democrat, in the primary election. Sbranti advanced but was defeated in the general election by a Republican, Catharine Baker.

Glazer’s opponents tied him in campaign mailers to Big Tobacco, ostensibly because he once consulted for the California Chamber of Commerce, whose donors include cigarette makers.

Glazer is now running in the special election for the East Bay state Senate seat formerly held by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier. He is one of three high-profile Democrats in the race. The party’s voters hold a 15-percentage-point registration advantage over Republicans in the district.

The other candidates, former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, spent recent days securing the endorsements of the California Teachers Association and California Democratic Party, respectively.

Glazer, who serves on the Orinda City Council, has not always been at cross-purposes with labor. Public employee unions spent heavily eviscerating Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s image during the gubernatorial campaign in 2010. Glazer managed Brown’s winning campaign that year.

Labor helped again in 2012, when Glazer helped Brown raise money for his ballot measure to raise taxes.

“I don’t want to come across angry,” he said as he left the forum. “I’m not.”

But he said he declined to participate in the Democratic Party’s endorsement process in his Assembly race and is doing the same now, in his bid for Senate.