Primary Questions: AD-16 Preview

Clockwise from the left: Steve Glazer, Tim Sbranti, Catharine Baker and Newell Arnerich.

THE CANDIDATES Before Steve Glazer was the “Ban BART Strikes” guy, he was the mayor of Orinda and Gov. Jerry Brown’s best bud. Now, Glazer is attempting to parlay his early opposition to the BART strikes that roiled the Bay Area during the last half of 2013 into a seat in the State Assembly. Running boldly on a single issue is not easy feat, but Glazer has done a masterful job of stoking the anger, especially in this truly moderate district, that many felt toward public employees last year. Nevermind, a deal to end the strikes was made six months ago, all four candidates in this race are still talking about it everyday…For Glazer’s manipulation of the BART issue to work, he needed a foil and that person became Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, also a moderate Democrat like Glazer, but one who is backed by labor unions. Sbranti is a high school teacher who counts Rep. Eric Swalwell as a former pupil. In fact, Sbranti differs with Glazer on few issues, but that doesn’t matter because the most contentious point is BART and on that count they diverge greatly…Republican Catharine Baker is a first time candidate from the Tri Valley who is the race’s genuine conservative. She believes in small government, opposes high-speed rail and water tunnels under the San Joaquin Delta. Baker says it was her, not Glazer, who first took on the issue of public employee transportation strikes…Newell Arnerich is the mayor of Danville, who like Glazer and Baker, opposes BART strikes. However, in public forums and an endorsement meeting with the Bay Area News Group, Arnerich often jousts with Glazer, more than Sbranti or Baker.

MAIN BEEF BART, BART, BART. This race is all about BART, which would seem to favor Glazer, the candidate who has made it his signature issue, but not necessarily. In fact, Baker may be the unintended benefactor of the Glazer/Sbranti war that has attracted closed to $3 million in independent expenditure committee money to the race. It remains to be seen whether a flurry of mailers from pro-Sbranti labor IEs saying Glazer is a flip-flopper who claims to be an independent Democrat at the same time he is a fiscal conservative might induce right-of-center voters to the genuine Republican in Baker. Pundits says yes and have recently vaulted Baker to the top of the pack. However, there is absolutely no consensus over who finishes second. The group of six East Bay Citizen political experts used to determine the predicted order of finish in all races wouldn’t even venture a guess.

QUOTABLE “Republicans, put an effective fiscal conservative in the State Assembly. Vote for Steve Glazer,” said a recent mailer sent by Glazer’s campaign to AD16 conservatives.

BY THE NUMBERS Voter Registration: Democratic 39.7%; Republican 32.4%; No Party Preference 21.5%.

Campaign Finance, cash on hand through May 17: Glazer $354,057; Baker $192,381; Sbranti $64,833; Arnerich $20,692.

2012 Primary Result: Joan Buchanan (D) 56.7%; Al Phillips (R) 43.3%.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH 1. Baker 2. Sbranti 3. Glazer 4. Arnerich

ON TO NOVEMBER Catherine Baker is a real find for the local Republican Party. No matter who Baker faces in November, its going to be a very difficult race for any of the competitors, but Baker has shown to be a confident and thoughtful candidate. Which special interests-backed opponent poses the greatest threat to her candidacy is unclear. Judging by the sheer amount money and desperation shown by labor unions, you can venture to guess it would be Sbranti. In addition, the State Democratic Party simply cannot afford to lose another winnable seat in the Legislature. Conversely, Baker vs. Glazer in November is favorable to the Republican, assuming moderate primary voters who might lead her to the top spot on June 3 already made their choice based up the very same matchup.