Ostensively, it was “All Quiet on the Western Front” for the Contra Democratic Party at the May 31st fundraiser at Shadelands Ranch in Walnut Creek for Freshman Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord).

Despite the outward Alfred E. Neuman-esque “What, me worry” attitude of various speakers including County Supervisor John Gioia and Superintendant of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, omitted from their remarks was mention of the crushing defeat of Progressive candidate Susan Bonilla at the hands of moderate Steve Glazer on May 19th.

In a way this cavalier attitude reminded me of what might be found at past Republican post-election events where getting blitzed at the polls was normally shrugged off with the rationalization of being “right about the issues.” 

Nowhere was there any public acknowledgement of the 55% to 45% thrashing administered to Bonilla by the perceived turncoat Democratic Steve Glazer, or the clumsily withdrawn recall attempt of Karen Mitchoff by County employee labor unions.

Instead Mitchoff was proudly introduced to DeSaulnier donors as a loyal party member who deserved the groups support.  The former State Senator was mentioned as a worthy successor to the progressive legacy of George Miller who retired in 2015.

On the sidelines of this event things were buzzing with a lot whispering by attendees who were discussing their recent setbacks at the polls. Contra Costa  Democratic Party Chair Jeff Koertzen was saying all the right things. While admitting that last week’s defeat of Bonilla and Tim Sbranti’s loss to Republican moderate Catharine Baker in the Assembly last fall had to be dealt with, he stressed that “we still must stand up with our core principles in future elections.”

As might be expected when the subject of the role of Political Action Committees (PACs) was brought up, Koertzen was especially bitter about the money thrown into Glazer’s campaign by billionaire Bill Bloomfield and the Jobs PAC group financed by the California Chamber of Commerce and other pro business  organizations.

In his mind and others who were at the fundraiser, these groups were much more subversive than labor funded Working Families against Steve Glazer PAC headed by Sacramento political consultant Steve Maviglio. While it was acknowledged there was plenty of mudslinging emanating from both camps, there was consensus that Bonilla’s supporters were more righteous than Glazer’s thus their efforts could be better justified.

Talking about being justified, when I mentioned to Koertzen about the Dentists Association  giving a half million dollars to Assemblywomen Bonilla while she has been overseeing their activities as Chair of the Assembly Professional Services Committee, he admitted this was not a good thing.   When I suggested what many people consider this Quid Pro Quo activity should have been condemned by Bonilla, Koertzen said this was not an option as candidates are prohibited by law from interfering with the activities of PAC groups.

Oh well, there goes the neighborhood!

With all of the talk about what had recently transpired at the polls and with the County Sheriffs failed attempt to recall Karen Mitchoff, the real elephant in the closet (or should we say Donkey) is how all of this might affect DeSaulnier both now and when he defends his seat in coming elections.

Although the Congressman ran unopposed in the primary and easily defeated the weak campaign of Judge Phan in the General Election, things might not be so easy in the future should stronger candidates emerge to run against him. The fact of the matter is Glazer’s Senate District is, with a few exceptions, virtually the same as his. In addition the San Ramon Valley where GOP darling Catharine Baker triumphed, is also where DeSaulnier serves.

For Democrats, winning in this area is no longer a gimme.  Understanding this new reality at the DeSaulnier fundraiser was Tim Sbranti who in taking a staff position on Congressman Eric Swalwell’s staff effective June 15th, said he would not be running against Catharine Baker in 2016.  Waiting in the wings at the Democratic “love fest” was former Orinda Mayor and head of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Aimee Worth who is rumored to be interested in possibly opposing Baker in 2016.

Worth, who supported her friend Mayor Steve Glazer in the recent election, has recently been showing a more moderate approach to politics, which in her case may be a preview of coming attractions as she would have to widen her base to defeat Baker.

Sitting in the precarious catbirds seat lies Mark DeSaulnier. While he does not want to alienate his progressive supporters who have propelled him Washington D.C., he also would like to reach out to his more conservative constituents; especially those who have supported Baker and Glazer. Walking this tight rope is nothing new to DeSaulnier who switched from being a Republican to a Democrat after Governor Wilson appointed him to be a County Supervisor several years back.

The fact is DeSaulnier will need to be careful because if he veers too much to the middle, he might find opposition coming from within the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  With the passage of Proposition 14 where the top two vote getters in the primary run-off in the November election he could find himself is a similar struggle to Pete Stark who lost to fellow Democratic Eric Swalwell in the  2012 General Election.

There is also a prospect for a stronger Republican candidate emerging at some point to be contended with.  In the current political environment, nothing is certain right now.

Going along with all of this is how the Democratic Party is to deal with its recent bout of failures mostly in Contra Costa County.  Will they come to the realization that the party can no longer be considered by the electorate to be stooges for organized labor and continue to carry out the same tactics which recently resulted in defeat?

Is it possible that party leaders will have to tell public employee unions that it is not cool to strike and inconvenience the public?  Going along with this is that if the unions don’t co-operate in changing the public perception of their activities, voters will do it for them?

In a similar vein is the hot button issue of pension reform for public employees unions which for the State of California is currently in the neighborhood of 80 billion dollars in the red.  As was evidenced in the recent election, voters did not go along with Susan Bonilla’s pledge to use the “bargaining table” as the primary vehicle to fix what is considered to be a broken system.

Is the Democratic leadership in Sacramento going to work in earnest with Governor Brown to deal with pension concerns of voters or risk further erosion of what was recently a super majority in the legislature?   Are they planning to continue depicting moderate Democratic former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed as a kissing cousin of the Koch Brothers or work with him on pension reform?

These are all interesting questions that will be dealt with by the legislature and Congress leading up to the 2016 Presidential elections.  With the struggling economy, both Democrats and Republicans will have to deal with the concerns of their constituents which regardless of Party preference comes down to the unmistakable reality, “It’s the money stupid.”