In The 18th Assembly District, The Tide Is Rapidly Turning Toward Bonta

ELECTION ’12//ASSEMBLY 18 | Last Jan. 30, the California Nurses Association, one of the state’s most powerful labor unions endorsed Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen for the 18th Assembly District. “Abel’s record of improving access to quality health care for working class families is unmatched,” said Malinda Markowitz, a co-president of CNA. “We look forward to working closely with Abel in the future to guarantee the health and safety of all Californians,” she added.

However, the future apparently only meant the next six months.

On Tuesday, CNA announced they were splitting their once exclusive endorsement of Guillen and sharing it with his general election opponent, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta.

Describing Bonta as a “true progressive,” the same Markowitz, now president of CNA, said “He shares our commitment to public education, healthcare and livable wages for all. We are proud to endorse him for Assembly.”

Whether a split endorsement or no endorsement at all, the ramifications for Guillen’s campaign is certainly dire. CNA is one of the most proactive unions in the state and the relative muting of its endorsement, according to observers, essentially means its feared guns will be quiet during the last 100 days of this campaign.

Bonta won the top-two June primary with over 36 percent of the voters in Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. Guillen, a fellow Democrat finished second with 30 percent.

News of CNA’s decision is another sharp shank to the ribs capping one of the worst weeks imaginable for Guillen as his campaign attempts to overtake Bonta in the fall. On July 15, the local Democratic Central Committee narrowly awarded its endorsement to Bonta. The big win was followed a few days later with current Assemblyman Sandre Swanson enthusiastically backing Bonta in a lengthy press release.

Bonta’s consolidation of power among progressive leaders and labor unions may force Guillen to fight more vigorously for the ultra-liberal constituency many believed six months ago belonged solely to him. In addition, a few supporters are grumbling loudly that Guillen needs to be tougher and signal a move powerful message catered toward the progressive majority in Oakland.