ELECTION ‘12//ASSEMBY 18 PREVIEW | For Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen the road to the State Assembly runs through Oakland. It’s always about Oakland and it always will be. It’s the biggest, most influential city in the East Bay and its electoral power easily dwarfs neighboring 18th District cities, Alameda and San Leandro.
For Guillen, the Peralta Community College trustee, who finished second to fellow Democrat Rob Bonta in the June primary, he needs to erase a daunting seven-point gap, but the numbers show an opportunity for a close race if proud progressive activists in Oakland come out in force. If they don’t bother or decide the equally progressive Bonta is a better fit for them, this one could be a landslide.
Guillen beat Bonta in Oakland last June by just two points—30 percent to 28. The margin of victory, though, was somewhat of a major disappointment for Guillen, an Oakland resident and expected area of strength for him. Bonta, though, make significant inroads in Oakland and coupled his strength in Alameda as it’s vice mayor and a clear win in San Leandro to register an easy win this primary. Here are the results from the spring:
If there is any possibility of Guillen upsetting Bonta next week, it will have to come from a perfect storm of progressive Occupy Oakland types becoming enthused enough to head to the polls and vote for President Obama. In fact, the entire city may well vote for Obama, so it makes it an iffy proposition that the far left wingers, usually unhappy or tepid in their enthusiasm for Obama will merely be absorbed by the horde of progressives split between two similar candidates. Here is a breakdown of how Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro looked last June:
Outside of the data, however, it is not clear whether Guillen can cobble enough votes in Oakland, regardless of a larger number of younger, more progressive voters in Oakland with turnout next week around 80 percent to offset even greater support for Bonta in Alameda and San Leandro.
Alamedans are clearly enthused about sending one of their own to the Assembly. Island voters headed to the polls last June in greater numbers than almost anyone in the county with 41.89 percent turnout. The number was far greater than the district-wide 32.27 percent. Alameda will likely cast an even greater percentage of ballots in the general election that, of course, includes a presidential election and hotly-contested City Council and school board races. Alameda, however, is about seven-times smaller than Oakland and a population about 30,000 fewer than San Leandro. The point here: tuck Alameda away for Bonta and sprinkle additional votes to his column next week from his hometown.
Expect Bonta to also add to his eight-point advantage in San Leandro. San Leandro, in many ways is like Alameda, if not for the similar local refrain of, we’re NOT Oakland. Voters in both these bedroom cities are worried about public safety, an issue Bonta has made the forefront of his campaign.
And then there is Joel Young’s voting bloc. His fall from early front runner to primary day face plant still garnered a valuable 18.8 percent of the vote, including 19 percent in Oakland. Where will those voters gravitate? Will Oakland “nationalists” switch their allegiances to other Oakland candidate (Guillen) or move to Bonta? Although Young was a flip-flopper on the scale of Mitt Romney, a wide-angle view of his politics suggests his “beliefs” are closer to Bonta’s view of liberalism than Guillen’s. Young’s most informed supporters will also know or suspect the astonishing barrage of negative mailers against Young in the primary’s final three weeks from independent expenditures committees were a major reason Guillen finished in the top two and not their candidate. Add Alameda, San Leandro and Young’s voter to Bonta’s side and then examine the final weeks of the general election, particularly the bank accounts.
Guillen is currently getting hit with the same one-two punch Dr. Jennifer Ong is unleashing against Bill Quirk in the 20th Assembly District race, but in this case, the blows are landing harder. Like the 20th with Ong, Bonta is the beneficiary of nearly $200,000 in independent expenditures in his favor in just the past two weeks. The difference between the two neighboring race is even more pronounced in the 18th because Bonta has been the clear leader when it comes to fundraising for his campaign. Conversely, Guillen has always trailed Bonta and even Young for that matter in the money race throughout the campaign. As of Oct. 20, Bonta had over $90,000 in cash remaining, while Guillen reported only $29,000. That’s a huge advantage at this late stage and it is compounded further by the fact Guillen went nearly a week without a large donation to his campaign in the final month. This is a case when campaign finance reports more than polling data or anything else gives the best predictor of an outcome. The power players seem to know who is going to win and they seem to be more than suggesting it won’t even be close.