Business versus labor in California elections is not new but that old tug-of-war is being played out with gusto in Assembly District 16, the East San Francisco Bay district. In the strongly Democratic leaning state, many political players in the business community are following a strategy to boost business friendly Democrats. They found one in AD 16. But there is a wild card for business in that race.
Steve Glazer, Orinda City Council member (and current mayor), a former top advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, has received financial support from the business community, particularly from a real estate independent expenditure committee (over $1-million); also from a charter school association, and the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPac.
On the other hand, unions have been active in the race spending nearly half-a-million dollars to defeat Glazer. In addition, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and California State Council of Service Employees have pumped in more than $667,000 for Tim Sbranti, the union friendly mayor and city council member in Dublin who serves as political chair of the CTA. (UPDATE–correction, Tim Sbranti is the former chair of a committee of CTA State Council, Political Involvement.)
Glazer has been a target of unions because he helped the California Chamber of Commerce in the last election put two Democrats in office that were not supported by Democratic leadership. He also came out against strikes by public employee union members on the Bay Area Rapid Transit.
But there is a wild card in this race that works against the business community model of going all in for a business friendly Democrat. Republicans have a substantial candidate of their own in attorney Catharine Baker. She has worked in the public arena for the late Congressman Sonny Bono and in politics as Mitt Romney’s Bay Area Regional Chair. She also has the financial backing of Republican rainmaker, Charles Munger, Jr.
Voter registration favors Democrats over Republicans 40% to 32%, but there is a strong representation of No Party Preference voters at 22%, a point above the NPP statewide average. Given that the June primary promises to produce a low voter turnout, experts are giving Baker a good chance to make the top two runoff.
Business is hedging its bet. JobsPac also contributed to Baker through an independent expenditure. If, after the primary dust has cleared, the General Election pits Sbranti vs. Baker, the business entities involved in the race have a clear path to follow.
But what if it’s Glazer vs. Baker in November?
Baker is the type of GOP candidate the business community has been urging to run for office. She fits the district well with her fiscal conservative, social moderate approach. After battling for a more business friendly Democratic candidate in the primary would the business interests abandon him in the General Election?
Hard to imagine. It is still considered a Democratic district. But, Baker has an outside shot at winning the district. In the normal course of commerce, businesses that put a large investment into a product usually want to see it to the finish. Will the same be true with candidates in the new world of the top two primary system?