By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen.com

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, looking dapper in a crisp light gray suit, pink shirt and tie of varying pastel hues, stood on the dais last Tuesday night after a marathon four hour council meeting to discuss the recent release of state redistricting lines. More than just about anyone in the East Bay, the proposed boundaries may be more of a factor in whether the long-time councilman can win a seat in the California Assembly next year.

“The maps are alright,” Quirk said with mischievous smirk. From his perspective, though, the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission maps for Hayward are more than alright, they actually eliminate a large swath of Quirk’s potential rivals for the seat along with a stubborn composition of voters in the Tri-Valley who may not know what to make of the brusque and candid Quirk.

The first draft of maps release last week ended all question of whether Quirk will be a candidate next to replace the termed-out Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi when the 18th District eastern borders did not include the Tri-Valley.

“I’m happy that I won’t have to campaign against good friends in Dublin and Pleasanton,” said Quirk. A small stable of candidates from Pleasanton and Dublin were rumored to have interest in running. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti was one name bandied about constantly as a particularly formidable candidate, although he is virtually unknown on this side of 580 corridor.

While Quirk’s understated choice of muted colors in his attire this week is pleasant, its the analogy to his garish green blazers more befitting of a Masters’ champion and dark selections of deep purple colored shirt typically worn by Vegas pit bosses that may cause voters some concern.

Among Hayward observers, Quirk can come across as cold and describes issues with a furrowed brow followed by steely words. Some worry his reputation as a loose cannon could turn off voters in the area. One reporter recounted a representative remark made during Hayward’s discussion last year of permitting medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. Quirk, who supported the plan, said, “If you want to buy marijuana, just go to the high schools.”

That sort of honestly poignant, but off-putting response risks the possibility of being misunderstood by voters. It’s also possible the retired physicist just sees the world differently with a scientist’s sense of humor. When discussing an increase in non-threatening bacteria in the city’s water supply earlier this year he downplayed its importance by joking during a council meeting about the likelihood of a molecule from Sir Issac Newton’s urine could also be in the water. The quip captured a few giggles, but for others the comment flew briskly over their heads. “There were a lot of high school students there that night,” he said afterwards, “I thought they would enjoy it.”

Quirk has one other advantage–just one declared opponent. Jennifer Ong, an ophthalmologist with a practice in Alameda is also officially declared. While Ong is a bit of a political neophyte–she could not even win a seat on the six-member Alameda County Democratic Central Committee last year–many believe she will have the exclusive backing of many Asian-American groups in the area. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has already endorsed Ong’s campaign along with other bit players.

The big endorsement out there will likely be from Hayashi. Both Quirk and Ong are strong political allies of Hayashi, but the assemblywoman has not given any indication she will support either candidate.

Another possibility for assembly is Union City Mayor Mark Green. The affable, baritone-voice Green surprised many last year when he nearly edged out Liz Figueroa for a spot in a run-off for Alameda County Supervisor against Nadia Lockyer. Green’s commitment to door-to-door retail campaigning has become legendary in the area and with the lack of potential candidates with daunting name-recognition, he could be a dark horse.

One early political calculation made by Quirk to focus on San Leandro’s fight to save San Leandro Hospital may turn out o tbe muted by redistricting since much of that city may become part of Assemblyman Sandre Swanson’s district also representing Alameda and parts of Oakland.

In the past year, he has toiled in the background while keeping abreast of the hospital situation at the county level while working behind the scenes with the Eden Township Healthcare District. With Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital entering the equation, though, Quirk still has a horse in the race, but not as much if his stump speech could have reminded voters in San Leandro he helped save their hospital.