May 28, 2012 | For politicians, these are not times for the faint of heart. In fact, the pressure is high, nerves are fraying and while some campaigns are deep into readying well-honed strategies, others are looking to gain every advantage possible as political equations shift and unforeseen developments arise and for others anything is fair game.

Races in the East Bay’s 18th and 20th Assembly District’s and Hayward’s contentious City Council campaign are all too close to call and candidates are leaving nothing to chance, while the race for the 15th congressional district may be more about the the incumbents margin of victory than which candidate finishes win, place or show.


Dr. Jennifer Ong’s retro-style campaigning in the 20th Assembly District has received wide attention among not only voters, but also her opponents. Voters in the district began receiving pot holders in the mail emblazoned with Ong’s campaign logo last week in tandem with a mailer describing her mother’s working class background selling hot dogs at the Oakland Coliseum. “I’m tired of hearing about her mother selling hot dogs,” exclaimed Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso, Ong’s Republican opponent for the Assembly.

Ong has also supplied potential voters with small ornamental grass plants, which set off a frenzy last week outside a church in Fremont. Ong’s late hard charge has been bankrolled with over $50,000 in independent expenditures over the past two weeks, primarily from health care special interest groups. While most believe Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk will likely finish first in the June primary, Ong’s not only has designs on second place, but aiming at tweaking her opponent. In a bit of political theater last Tuesday, Ong spoke out during public comment at the Hayward City Council meeting against a proposed Walmart in the city at the same time addressing her main opponent Quirk. Although, Quirk voted to uphold the planning commission’s decision blocking Walmart, Ong’s remarks appeared more vociferous than his and may have stole his thunder on his home turf.

The same type of aggressiveness has been absent in the neighboring 18th Assembly District until the past two weeks. Despite growing knowledge of Joel Young’s boorish behavior starting with allegations of domestic violence early last year, the subject have never come close to being broached during the campaign, until a biting mailer arrived in mailboxes last week. A Southern California special interest group, hoping to capitalize on Young’s extreme negatives, pointedly described his former girlfriend’s allegations, another incident with an Oakland council staff member and the revoking of a major labor union’s endorsement earlier this year.


Hayward’s toss-up at-large City Council race may became an extremely dirty political race down the stretch. Three incumbents are running with six other candidates for four open seats. Ralph Farias, Jr., one of the most colorful candidates in the East Bay was called out in public Tuesday night by Jesus Armas, the city’s former city manager and current school board member, who charged him with pasting his campaign signs on placards supporting the school parcel tax, Measure G. Farias has been vocal about voting down the tax measure. When Armas revealed a photo of the signs before the City Council and viewers watching at home, Farias heckled Armas to keep the picture in focus. Afterwards, Farias would not admit to defacing the Measure G signs, but owned up to his long-running feud with Armas.

Conservative-leaning Chris Pareja may not have much campaign fundraising to draw from so he’s going big with what little he has. Drivers on the always congested Interstate 880 near Winton Avenue will have seen what Pareja calls the “largest lawn sign” in the district. Peering down from the 27 by 15 feet video board at Southland Mall is Pareja’s visage and Web site, PeteStarkMustGo.com, which either means Stark must not return to congress next year ,or, possibly, a site that alerts constituents to when the 80-year-old congressman needs to use the restroom. Either way, Stark should win the June 5 primary, but the major unknown is by how much? If Swalwell and Pareja can limit Stark to under 50 percent, then the entire November general election in the 15th will became a full-fledged toss-up with national implications.