2012 Year In Lists: East Bay’s Top 5 Up-And-Coming Politicians

1. Ro Khanna – To focus of Khanna initial fundraising splash of over $1.2 million in just a month does a disservice to potentially a once-in-a-generation political mind in the East Bay. The former Obama commerce department official has the connections to the beltway, Silicon Valley interests and the future of manufacturing in the U.S. His book, Entrepreneurial Nation, is a poignant and understandable blueprint for the future strength of industry in America within a cloud of worry over the rise of China. The question is the East Bay ready or deserving of a philosopher king-type of leader in Congress or not. No matter where Khanna lands in the Bay Area, it is clear he represents the future of this region.

2. Mark Salinas – Earlier this year, some thought Salinas was in line to replace Nadia Lockyer on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Some say Salinas ultimately chickened out from running for the spot against Richard Valle, but he wasn’t ready, anyways, and may be a candidate for mayor in 2014. Undoubtedly, Salinas connects masterfully with young voters and may utilize social media better than any public official in the entire East Bay. His public comments defending young Latinos in Hayward against the possibility of gang injunctions was inspiring, but his wishy-washy relationship with labor needs to improve before his political career can really take off.

3. Rebecca Saltzman – Her election to the BART Board of Directors last November represents a clear and, hopefully, replicated map to public service for aspiring political officials to follow. The former Oakland blogger and Young Democrat has long been a reliable voice among Oakland’s next generation and she is now ready to enter the political fray. The general consensus places Saltzman on a linear path to greater things past overseeing the Bay Area’s aging rapid transit and it will be accomplished through learning the ropes at every step of government. Others should take notice before jumping ahead of line before they pay their dues. We’re talking to you, Joel Young.

4. Chris Pareja – In his first run for office, Pareja took a different path than Saltzman and quickly aimed at Congress and won an astonishing 21 percent of the vote on primary day, but we’re talking about the graveyard of political thought, better known as the Alameda County Republican Party. The newly-minted Republican, however, can now be viewed as the face of the region’s conservative aspirations, and despite the general lack of an organized GOP in Alameda County, the group can now hang its hat on a leader who is not a crack pot or deranged 80-year-old white man, but a multi-cultural candidate who talks the conservative talk without scaring the living crap out of liberals.

5. Corina Lopez – Voters tend not to make mistakes at the ballot box, but they did in 2010 when San Leandro voters passed over Corina Lopez for the City Council in favor of Pauline Cutter. Deserving or not, the city got a reprieve this year with Lopez’s election to the school board and gained a much-needed advocate for the city’s growing Latino population. Born in the Central Valley to immigrant parent, Lopez attended Princeton and started her own local business. Here’s the rub: she never highlights her biography for her own gain. Hopefully, her humility leads her to the City Council and beyond.

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