Action on BART strikes

The unusual strategy by the Democratic PAC, Glazer says, came after he angered public employee unions by calling for a legal ban on future BART strikes and presenting himself as a “pragmatic, pro-business Democrat.”

He’s in the race against two former Assembly members: Joan Buchanan of Alamo, who was termed out of office and enjoys the widest name recognition and highest approval ratings in the district, polls show, and Susan Bonilla. She has the endorsement of the state Democratic Party and many of the state’s major labor groups, as well as Rep. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord, whose election to Congress in November created the vacancy. Democrat Terry Kremin, a teacher who has never held political office, is also a declared candidate.

“The amount of spending and mail is unbelievable,” says Glazer, who’s been the focus of the union-funded attack mailers from the small-business PAC. The group’s ads, which are directed at Republican voters, slam Glazer for “advising liberal Jerry Brown” and for being the “mastermind” behind Proposition 30, the 2012 sales and income tax measure that Brown backed and was approved by voters.

The goal of such a strategy, Glazer says, is clearly to “confuse the voters,” in the district where 43.5 percent of the voters are Democrats, 28.5 percent Republicans and 22 percent independent.

Under the state’s top-two primary system, if no candidate gets a majority of the vote in the Mach 17 primary, the top two finishers of either party go on to a May 19 runoff.

Alienating Democrats

Republican Joel Fox, publisher of the Fox & Hounds political website, says Glazer “is in a position to make a likely runoff, especially if Republican voters and some independents join the Democrats who agree with Glazer’s positions.”

“The problem for him,” Fox wrote, “is that, in a special election, those voters may not focus on the fact that the designated Republican has withdrawn” and vote for her anyway.

Democratic consultant Steve Maviglio says Glazer alienated Democrats by attacking some of the very labor groups who have helped the party make huge gains in the state — taking control of both houses of the state Legislature, and every statewide office in California. He says both Buchanan and Bonilla are “credible” Democrats, and Glazer will now have to peel off “ultraconservative” Democrats, Republicans and independents to get to the runoff in the race.

But Republican political consultant Rob Stutzman calls the Asian American PAC actions “sloppy” and “a huge misstep,” even in the bare-knuckled world of California politics.

“The net effect of it has been helpful to Glazer,” he says. “I think he’s doing well with GOP voters, because this has helped them to understand that a dirty trick was being employed against them.”

Whatever the strategy, a lot of money has gone into the race. Upward of $1.5 million in independent expenditures has swamped the race, the California secretary of state’s website reports.

Some of the Asian American Small Business PAC’s donors include key unions: the International Union of Operating EngineersLocal 39 ($40,000); California School Employees ($5,000); the state Building and Construction Trades Council ($10,000); the California State Council of Service Employees ($40,000); the California Nurses Association ($10,000) and theProfessional Engineers in California Government ($20,000).

'Caught in the middle’

Buchanan, meanwhile, says she’s been “caught in the middle” of special interests. On one hand, some unions are still angered by her authorship of a 2012 bill that curbed pension spiking in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. On the other hand, “I don’t have a billionaire who’s supporting me,” a reference to Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield, a wealthy independent who has invested $439,000 in independent expenditure committees to boost Glazer’s bid.

Buchanan has gotten just $50,000 in independent expenditure help, all of it from the California Building Industry Association. That’s a mere fraction of Glazer’s $615,000 total.

Bonilla has also reaped a windfall of independent expenditures — $523,669 as of last week, from groups that include theAlliance of Energy, Labor and Healthcare Invested in the Middle Class, California Professional Firefighters, California Nurses Association, California Dental Association and California Medical Association.