Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Luis Reynoso and Jaime Patino.

THE CANDIDATES Bill Quirk nearly lost two years ago despite strong support from the Democratic Party and labor unions. He beat Jennifer Ong by just over 900 votes, yet the close call failed to attract any Democrats to challenge his re-election. As an assemblyman and former Hayward council member and nuclear scientist, Quirk often labels himself the lower house’s expert on all things scientific. He helped pass fracking regulations and has been one of the most vocal proponents of gun control, which raised the ire of some second amendment advocates…One of Quirk’s primary challengers from 2012 is back again, this time shedding the Republican marker for that of an independent. Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso finished fourth two years ago and he is back again with a focus on state funding for schools…Republican Jaime Patino is a newcomer from the Union City Human Relations Commission who has ingratiated himself with a county party looking to rebuild its image in the East Bay. Patino believes in smaller government, but he, like Reynoso, support gay rights.

MAIN BEEF Quirk can often seem aloof and grumpy at candidate’s forums. His quiet scowl has been seen often in this race following repeated attacks by Reynoso and Patino over Quirk’s long-time support for the Calpine Russell City Energy Center on the Hayward shoreline. Earlier this year, a regional air quality agency found the plant released 10 times the amount of approved water particulate into the air. The rhetoric has been filled with hyperbole—Reynoso called it a “smokestack”—while Patino has continually browbeat Quirk for his support of the plant. Quirk has responded to the tag-team strategy with his typical brand of aplomb sprinkled with a dash of exasperation.

QUOTABLE “The plant—it’s quite healthy.” Quirk said of the Russell City Energy Center in late March at a candidate’s forum in Hayward.

BY THE NUMBERS Voter Registration: Democratic 54.2%; No Party Preference 20.7%; Republican 15.7%.

Campaign Finance: cash on hand through May 17: Quirk $202,218; Patino, no report filed; Reynoso, no report filed.

2012 Primary Result: Bill Quirk (D) 30.3%; Jennifer Ong (D) 25.7%; Mark Green (NPP) 20.3%; Luis Reynoso (R) 17.7%; Sarabjit Cheema (D) 6.0%.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Quirk 2. Patino 3. Reynoso.

ON TO NOVEMBER Like the race in the 18th Assembly District, Quirk should have little problem winning re-election. However, Quirk’s opponents in this race have similar, in-your-face personalities and a certain cachet, at least for Republicans in these parts. But, Quirk is like a fighter who can withstand many blows without going down. The question, though, is whether either Patino or Reynoso can soften Quirk up for the next election cycle. The district is being overrun by moderates like Swalwell and the entire Hayward City Council. It’s conceivable, Quirk, who is one of the more progressive members of the Assembly, could be challenged in 2016 by a moderate in the style of Swalwell or Khanna and this pair of moderate conservatives have the ability to highlight his weaknesses.