April 4, 2012 | Over the past week several civic-minded San Leandrans have queried me about the race in 20th Assembly District. One well-intentioned progressive San Leandro voter jokingly said he saw Democrat candidate Jennifer Ong dance at a recent event. “I think I’ll vote for her just by the way she dances,” he quipped.
Whether you register your vote based upon the issues, attractiveness or how well someone boogies on the dance floor is your prerogative, but there’s more fundamental things wrong with this logic. This voter and others in San Leandro are not voting in Ong’s race. Instead, through redistricting, the city is now cobbled together with Alameda and Oakland.
It’s no surprise San Leandrans perceive to be more comfortable with the political landscape in Hayward. The cities have long been represented by its own Sen. Ellen Corbett and share a long list of notable public officials from Hayward Mayor Mike Sweeney, Bill Lockyer, Liz Figueroa and Mary Hayashi.
Venturing north in their thinking is not natural for San Leandrans, who like neighboring Alamedans seem to indignantly claim to with more than a touch of historical bigotry and segregation to be NOT Oakland.
The feeling of inadequacy may also be fueled by relative inattention to San Leandro by the three Democrats in the 18th District race. Each campaign appears aloof in just how to meld the cities voters into the mix. Most cede Alameda to its Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, whereas San Leandro has no connection to any of the candidates. The dynamic seems to suggest the race this June will primarily be a battle for Oakland.
The plucking of the potential prize of San Leandro may be changing though. While Bonta has made some effort to reach out to the city, Abel Guillen has made the most effort to at least engage some of the city’s more discombobulated faux progressives–the group that consorted with right wingers to elect a conservative Democrat for mayor two years ago. Further, Guillen was seen last week working hard for the endorsement of another San Leandro mayor, the irascible Shelia Young.
BIG SPENDER: Only three candidates for assembly in the entire state have spent more campaign dollars than Jennifer Ong in the 20th District. Her $119,000 in expenditures from the beginning of the year to March 17 was even more than Assembly Speaker John Perez.
A vast majority of the money spent by Ong went to campaign consultants, which include Richie Ross, one of the most famous and controversial operatives in the state. Ong’s spending was only eclipsed by three Southern California assembly candidates. Matthew Lin spent nearly $162,000 in AD49; Brian Johnson doled out $155,000 in a tight race in AD46 and Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield spent over $149,000 in AD45.
Although, Ong’s main opponent, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk has garnered nearly all of the endorsements from the Democratic Party and local officials along with an even larger war chest, the demographics in AD20 give her more than a fighting chance. The district has one of the highest concentrations of voting age Asians in the state and being a Filipina with a Chinese surname is a significant twofer.
REYNOSO RISING? Even though Hayward is a bluer than a broke fat kid at Krispy Kreme, Hayward School Trustee Luis Reynoso could be a threat to designs of two Democrats facing off in general election this November.
Being the only Republican in the race of five candidates could be a guaranteed 15 percent of the vote. Whether it is enough to eek into the top two is unclear, but it could affect who faces the candidate most believe is a lock for November–Bill Quirk.
Some Hayward insiders say Reynoso label is a credible and articulate candidate who has been mocked and portrayed as a conservative wing nut by his colleagues on the Hayward School Board. He infamously was escorted out of one session by police at the urging of the previous board president after challenging Jesus Armas with claims of nepotism
Despite unintentional acts to destroy the GOP in the East Bay by its own hand, conservatives do actually exist in the area and not just under rocks on the Hayward Shoreline. Reynoso’s leanings to the right strike at the heart of Union City Mayor Mark Green’s independent campaign more than any other candidate. Just under one quarter of voters in AD20 are declined to state. It is not hard to imagine some disaffected Republicans or right-leaning moderates moving in the direction of either candidate which could also cancel out each others advantages.
The uncertainty may force Green to look elsewhere to find enough votes to crack the top two. If things get desperate, Green could try to mine plentiful votes in the Asian community surrounding his stronghold, Union City. You know, he’s married to a Filipina.