2014 Preview: Top 5 Best East Bay Political Races

2014 YEAR-IN-PREVIEW | The 2014 midterm elections will be huge in the East Bay. From Congress to the State Legislature to various big city mayoral elections, the campaigns are already gearing up for a strategy-filled election season. Here are the Top 5 races next year showing the greatest potential for interest and excitement:

CA17: Ro Khanna vs. Rep. Mike Honda

1. 17th Congressional District>>> This race has everything to suggest a barnburner from here to November. Loads of money, Dem-on-Dem action and youth versus experience, but most interestingly this race may also be a proxy war for another round of populist anger similar to the Occupy protests. The growing nouveau riche of Silicon Valley running smack dab into progressive stirrings that hope to create a backlash is a wonderful underlining narrative here. The Google bus protests recently occurred in San Francisco, well away from the 17th Congressional District, but the meme Silicon Valley is creating a social caste system with its wealth and hints of exclusion are showing signs of becoming a major campaign theme. Rep. Mike Honda welcomes the discussion, while Ro Khanna, bankrolled with Silicon Valley money, might not be so eager. Also remember, Khanna employs the same campaign team that helped President Obama win re-election, AKA the most effective and sophisticated campaign in the history of mankind.

CA15: Ellen Corbett vs. Rep. Eric Swalwell

2. 15th Congressional District>>>Two potential story lines here: Rep. Eric Swalwell slays another notable East Bay progressives and truly solidifies his seat in Congress for the next decade or more, OR, absent Sen. Ellen Corbett committing a series of unbelievable unforced errors and gaffes which benefited Swalwell in 2012, he struggles against an experienced opponent who is able to make the case that Stark failed to convey last year. In addition, Swalwell plays dirty politics and Corbett has a distinct history of being the comeback kid. She did it in boys-only San Leandro and during her run in 2006 for the state senate. We’re going to see exactly what each candidate is made of this time around.

3. 10th State Senate District>>> There is already signs of delicious political skulduggery in this race and likely candidate, Mary Hayashi, has even made a single peep! Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski is hoping to make the jump to the upper house of the State Legislature; however, a few of his once strong political allies are jumping ship. His long friendship with former Assemblymember Alberto Torrico has soured. Enter Fremont Planning Commissioner Roman Reed, a candidate with a compelling story and righteous cause of stem cell research on his record. This race will get downright dirty and with Hayashi plausibly being able to play the saint and peacemaker.

4. Hayward Mayor>>> A race featuring three sitting council members vying for the open mayor’s seat in Hayward seems exciting enough. However, it makes the list as much for its potential to titillate as the hot mess it may reveal in Hayward. The city is simply devoid of a generation of leaders, along with possessing no bench for the future. What will Councilmembers Barbara Halliday, Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas talk about it? What will they campaign on? What unites them is an equal share of most of Hayward’s positives. Except, none of them specifically contributed to the good fortune any more than the other three council members not running for mayor. One issue though may become a deciding factor. Hayward’s unpopular “Loop,” a virtual one-way highway plowing through downtown may make this race a one issue race. Were you for the Loop or against it?

5. 15th Assembly District>>> This is the race that finally test the limits of whether the Open Primary system can live up to its other more exotic name, the “Jungle Primary.” Whereas other races in 2012 and this year merely pit two contenders in the top-two primary, this one features a relatively even match up of six candidates. At first glance, the candidates hoping to replace termed-out Assemblymember Nancy Skinner appear quite vanilla, but it will be interesting how Elizabeth Echols, Sam Kang, Andy Katz, Peggy Moore, Tony Thurmond (all Democrats) and Rich Kinney (Republican) tear each other apart from here to June and then recalibrate for November.

HONORABLE MENTION: Oakland mayor, Alameda County superintendent of schools. AC Transit Board of Directors, at-large seat.

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