Corbett Will Not Mount Challenge to Stark in 2012

Sept. 20, 2012 | Will California Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett challenge Rep. Pete Stark next year? Is Stark retiring? Will the Mayan calendar render this conversation and all others moot by December 2012? The answer to all of the above is no, well, maybe not the last one.

Stark reiterated Tuesday that he will run for re-election for the 19th time next year. His opponent in 2012 will not be Corbett, according to a source with knowledge of her plans.

Corbett filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission earlier this month to form a political organization named “Corbett for Congress.” The news set off speculation whether the long-time San Leandro lawmaker was aiming to mount a surprising and somewhat audacious play for the seat Stark has held since 1973.

Opening a political committee is vastly different than filing to run for the office, said the source and Corbett is merely keeping her options open for after her second term in the State Senate is complete in 2014.

If Stark and Corbett have planned a secret order of succession for 2014, they are not telling. Stark said in an interview he has no knowledge of Corbett’s plans and has long counted on Corbett as an ally in the East Bay. He notes they also serve many of the same constituents and concerns.

Nonetheless, there is a palpable feeling even among Stark’s biggest supporters that his retirement is inevitable far sooner than later. “There’s a lot of people who think I should retire. Many of them want to run for that seat,” joked the 79-year-old Stark.

If Corbett has shown her cards, it may be imperative for other candidates to also begin forming the building block of an organization or risk falling behind the fundraising gravy train. Undoubtedly the district’s politicians and campaign donors, mostly populated by liberal East Bay Democrats, may eventually be pressured to handicap a potential race that may call for a political earthquake in the region’s political alliances. A few political observers believe Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi will need to quickly decide on which direction she hopes move forward–the State Senate or Congress.

Hayashi’s situation is complicated since she has a two-year gap between her termed out service in the assembly and a possible run for Stark’s seat in 2014 or Corbett’s termed out seat in the state senate the same year. Of course, the boldest move of all, would be for Hayashi to outflank Corbett and run in 2012. Most admit such a scenario is wildly off the wall, but would not put it past the street-fighting Hayashi.