Oct. 17, 2011 | One of the most interesting aspects of the wide-open race to replace Assemblyman Sandre Swanson in District 18 is how allies to all four sides are so closely connected.
In most cases, Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal at one point or another endorsed each other in previous elections. The quartet is also popular among labor groups and will likely cannibalize their support. Since most of the available campaign talent in the East Bay is labor related, previous allies are finding themselves on different teams.

The unintended consequence of such divisions may lead to a race with very few distinctions between candidates. With over eight months until the June primary, the only major difference between the four is one of them–Joel Young—was reprimanded by a Superior Court judge. The judge bluntly said in court transcripts he believed Young hit his ex-girlfriend in the face last March.

The new 18th District, covering a large chunk of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, was once referred to as the “black seat” in the assembly, but that may no longer be the case. This race is notable for its “Colors of Benetton” flavor. Bonta is Filipino, Young is a biracial African American, Guillen is Latino and Neal is a woman. No other race in the Bay Area exhibits the growing power of minority groups than this one. Calling this seat for an African American is no longer a given since the results of the U.S. Census this year reporting a breathtaking exodus of the near-majority demographic from Oakland over the last decade.

Will the familiarity breed a cordial, respectful race? Probably not. A campaign for the Legislature is in many ways about legacy. Win a spot and you are forever referred to as a former assembly member. Some of the East Bay acolytes aligning themselves with each campaign are also known to play an aggressive brand of politics. While they will likely cut each other, it’s all business until the election is over. When the ballot are tallied, the whole team will get back together and find the next interesting race.