ELECTION ‘12//ASSEMBLY 18 | Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta produced a poll last month showing him the prohibitive favorite to win the Assembly’s 18th District seat. His fellow Democratic challenger, Abel Guillen released his own poll last week placing the Peralta Community College trustee up by five points. So, which is it? Who knows? Other than being an early political ploy, what we do know is voters on Nov. 6 will basically have a choice not unlike the dilemma consumers have when choosing between Fuji apples and Macintosh apples at their local fruit stand. Frankly, when speaking to voters in the 18th District, you will find an overwhelming consensus saying they would be content with either candidate representing them in Sacramento.
Regardless, Bonta easily won the June primary by six points over Guillen, 36-30, and remains the favorite among most East Bay political insiders. In the months since, Bonta has laid low, has not committed any errors and forced his opponent to look for political openings in his campaign finance reports. That’s probably isn’t a good sign when other modes of attacking Bonta exist, namely a line of attack portraying him as less progressive might have more electoral oomph, especially in Oakland.
Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen
However, Bonta won the primary despite losing Oakland. He made up the difference with strong showings in San Leandro and, of course, his hometown of Alameda. But, there are great opportunities for Guillen in expanding upon his strength in Oakland. For one, the June primary produced historically low voter turnout. November, being a presidential election year, will certainly boost those numbers. If President Obama again dominates among minority voters, Oakland is loaded with potential for Guillen, especially, if the presidential race is perceived to be a nail bitter. There’s also the question of where primary votes for Joel Young will go. Despite an embarrassing third-place finish, Young still cajoled over 10,000 votes mostly progressive votes. Those are now up-for-grabs. On this front, for the well-informed voters, it greatly favors Bonta. These voters may harbor resentment toward Guillen for being the person who knocked out Young with a barrage of negative mailers late in the primary campaign. Guillen’s campaign didn’t send them, but independent expenditure groups who supported him footed the bill and it devastated Young’s campaign.
Of course, higher turnout could also help Bonta for one particular reason, there are very few differences between he and Guillen’s politics. Bonta and Guillen both say they support taxing off-shore oil producers in California, both support Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure, both want to save San Leandro Hospital, both back high-speed rail. The list goes on and on. Both are personally well-liked by most voters in the district and they also appear to genuinely like each other. Because of this, look for the campaign to become less about politics and more about a becoming a beauty pageant. Who do you personally like better? Who has better teeth? Who has better hair? Which candidate has a better recipe for a delicate, flaky pie crust? Do you see where this might go?
IF THE ELECTION WERE TODAY… Bonta would be thanking voters for a victory similar in point spread to the June primary. It would also make Bonta the first Filipino-American elected to the lower house of the state Legislature and an instant contender for Rep. Barbara Lee’s seat, if she were to retire in the next few years. Before that happens, a lot will go down. If you’re opponent is ahead in the polls and uniquely similar to you, what else is there but to get wicked nasty? However, much can be gleaned from how a candidate runs his campaign and how he governs. From the get-go, Bonta has been smooth, methodical and not prone to panic. In baseball parlance, Coach Bonta should be hurriedly waving his arms from dugout, instructing his outfielders to shift to a no-doubles defense and telling his corner infielders to hug the line.