Assemblymember Rob Bonta takes a moment to collect his thoughts at a candidate’s forum Tuesday evening in Alameda. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

ASSEMBLY | 18TH DISTRICT | During his 2012 campaign for the State Assembly, Rob Bonta often participated in a number of candidate’s forums on any given week. This time around, as he seeks re-election to the 18th District seat, Tuesday night’s forum in Alameda was the first and last of this primary season.

Whereas, two years ago, when the district representing Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro was an open seat–up-for-grabs to a number of well-financed candidates–this year’s race features just one challenger, Republican David Erlich, a first-time candidate with no cash and a severe dearth of conservative voters in one of the most progressive assembly district’s in the state.

Nevertheless, it was notable that Bonta took the forum seriously. Toting a large notebook, Bonta was in many ways more locked-in to the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters than several other East Bay candidates in other tightly-contested races, even though his chances of winning in November is almost a lock. A few hours later on Twitter, Erlich joked about Bonta’s preparation, “Did he have all the answers in that notebook of his?”

Some entrenched incumbent candidates over the years have been known to avoid spending an hour of their time at events like these, or opting to send a surrogate in their place, but not Bonta. “I don’t want to be that kind of elected official. I want to be accessible,” said Bonta, in an interview following the 40-minute event. “I want voters to ask questions that are on their minds. I want to share with them what I’m doing in Sacramento. I think that’s an important part of the job to be accessible, to be there and to be present.”

After a long day on Tuesday, Bonta, who lives in Alameda, drove from Sacramento to attend the forum and said he planned to hop on a 4:15 a.m. train on Wednesday for an early morning meeting in the capitol.

“I wanted to do [the forum], but I didn’t want to make a big thing out of it, like, ‘Look at me. I’m coming!’ It’s natural. I wanted to do it for a reason. It’s what I should be doing.”