ELECTION ’12//ASSEMBLY 18 | Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta secured one of the biggest endorsements left to be had in the 18th Assembly District–the full backing of the California Democratic Party.

Democratic party members Sunday afternoon tabbed the 40-year-old Bonta over Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen, also a Democrat. Bonta beat Guillen by over six points in the June primary. Both will face-off again in the general election in November.

The need to make an endorsement at this late stage of the campaign was necessitated by the state’s new open primary rules. Party activists were asked to give their imprimatur on races featuring Democrats running head-to-head this November who had not previously received the party’s endorsement. Four other races, including a contentious congressional battle in Southern California between two long-time liberal representatives, were also discussed in caucuses across the state.

Democrats in the 18th Assembly District did not award an endorsement earlier in the year to either Bonta, Guillen or AC Transit board member Joel Young. Bonta, with help of Democrats in Alameda pushed past the requisite 60 percent of the vote to snag the highly important and potentially lucrative moniker. Bonta’s 63 percent included notable votes from Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson. The redrawn 18th Assembly District contains most of Swanson’s current constituency.

On Sunday, Bonta’s campaign team took great lengths to reposition the candidate as not only the party’s newest standard-bearer, but also the most progressive candidate in the race. Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks, another who voted for Bonta Sunday, said, “Democrats trust Rob because of his tireless and personal commitment to the progressive politics of the party and the East Bay,” she said. During the primary, some in the campaign had lamented Bonta had somehow become pigeon-holed as something less than the most progressive candidate in one of the bluest districts in the state.

In addition to the notoriety and fundraising potential attached to the Democratic Party’s blessing, there may be added significance in a race featuring two very similar candidates. There is a school of thought that believes Sunday’s endorsement amounts to the party placing a large bet on Bonta. According to one East Bay insider, the Democratic Party does not want to risk getting behind the loser in November, even if either candidate largely suits its purposes.