Senate District 7 – All Democrats, Hardly Boring or Predictable

Judy Lloyd
President of Altamont Strategies

About 9 months ago, the race for State Senate in District 7 seemed boring. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla would face term-limited Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. Each Democrat woman would garner predictable endorsements from labor unions as well as regional officeholders. It would be a horse race between two well established Democrat women, both of whom are friendly with organized labor.

Then came fall and the inevitable election of Mark DeSaulnier to Congress, forcing a special election. Mark Meuser, a Republican who ran against DeSaulnier in 2012, entertained the thought of running and formed a campaign committee.

GOP Leadership expressed interest in 3 County Officials: Costa DA Mark Peterson and Contra Costa Supervisors Candace Andersen and Mary Piepho. All three have credibility with voters and have won previous races with respectable margins. Piepho and Peterson faced no opposition in their last race.

Supervisor Piepho was definitely interested. Her father, Senator John A. Nejedly, once proudly served this senate district. Beloved as a reformer and environmental Republican, he was that “different kind of Republican” they love in Contra Costa.

Unfortunately, Supervisor Piepho’s vote to raise supervisorial salaries 33% rubbed deputy sheriffs, the Local 1 union and taxpayer’s groups who rallied for a signature-gathering for a referendum to allow voters to over-turn the raise. Bad timing forced her to reconsider, rescind the salary increase, and forego the state senate race. Peterson and Andersen also politely passed.

At 4:45 PM on the day of filing, several Republicans (including Meuser) seemed ready to enter the race. None were as credible as the county officials, but all came with good intentions. Few people expected “surprise” candidate, Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer to enter the race. He filed at 4:55 PM.

Glazer, who ran an excellent race in the 16th AD in 2014, just missed the “top two” primary last June, coming up short of labor-backed mayor Tim Sbranti. Education advocate and small business attorney Catharine Baker, a Republican, won the 16th in a surprise victory.

This week, the sole Republican filer, Michaela Hertle, suspended her campaign and endorsed Glazer. Hertle, a young technology professional from Pleasanton, realized like other Republicans how hard the race would be with only 6 weeks until the March 17th “top two” primary. She issued this statement:

I am endorsing Steve Glazer for California State Senate District 7. Mr. Glazer has proven that he can work with Republicans and Democrats alike to find common sense solutions to our state’s needs. Like me, he is a fiscal conservative. He supports pension reform and school reform. He is not beholden to labor or other special interests, as seen by his opposition to BART strikes. I urge my fellow Republicans to vote for Steve Glazer. We have more commonalities with him than differences and he can win this race.”

With Democrats holding a voter registration advantage of 43.5% to 28.6% over Republicans and Decline-to-State voters at 22.3%, it would be tough to build a financial war chest large enough to overcome the name ID of the three Democrats. A 4th Democrat, Terry Klemin, who ran and lost twice in Concord, also lacks name ID.

Assemblywoman Bonilla appears confident that she will win the race with the backing of the California Democratic Party, the Concord Democrat Club, the California Professional Firefighters, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, AFSCME Council 57 & Local 2700, PORAC and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier. She also has officeholder endorsements in the northern part of the district as well as a few in Danville and Dublin.

Assemblywoman Buchanan just announced the support of the California Small Business Association as well as the Tri-Valley Democrats and California Teachers Association. She has more than 70 local officeholder endorsements and a poll showing her with twice the name ID as Bonilla. Some of the less militant unions have also endorsed her.

Steve Glazer is just getting started and has already posted his ballot statement. No doubt that Glazer will pick up some middle-of-the-road Democrat endorsements as well as key Republicans and business leaders.

At this juncture, this race is hardly over, nor is it boring. Two of three contenders – Bonilla, Buchanan and Glazer – will make it to top two on St. Patrick’s Day. Stay tuned.

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