Assembly candidate David Erlich speaks at a forum at the Mastick Center in Alameda while Assemblymember Rob Bonta looks on. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

ASSEMBLY | DISTRICT 18 | During the June primary, Assemblymember Rob Bonta had the distinction of garnering a greater percentage of the vote in his race than any other candidate in the entire East Bay. With a scant number of Republicans in the district–just under 10 percent–the rematch against San Leandro’s David Erlich may return a similar result next month.

Bonta says he sees re-election as his “public job 
review.” PHOTO/Steven Tavares

“My chances of winning?” said Erlich at a candidates forum Oct. 8 in Alameda. “Go buy a lottery ticket, you’ll have better chances.”

Despite the appearance Erlich may again be the party’s sacrificial lamb against Bonta, a popular incumbent whose power in Sacramento and the Democratic Party is quickly growing, both candidates treated the event like it was dead heat. The Assembly district covers Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.

Erlich blithely said, in response to a question, the state’s budget is so ungainly he has no idea where he would begin to cut. “How do you cut it? It’s a leviathan.” The comment was followed by a near rant covering everything from the encroachment of government surveillance, the loss of local control through the planning and transportation initiative One Bay Area and Obamacare.

“I think we’re starting to see difference between me and my opponent. He doesn’t believe in taxes. He doesn’t believe in government.” Bonta noted 16 of his 20 bills in the Assembly during his first term were signed into law. “Each bill affects a real life.”

Later, during a discussion on pension reform, Bonta offered a bill reforming the the public education pension fund, CalSTRS, as his most notable accomplishment over the past two years. “Our goal was not to take away the benefit, but for shared responsibility,” he said of the bill he believe should serve as a model for other public employee groups. The reforms were also not imposed, he added. “The benefit didn’t change, just the proportion paid.”

Erlich went in a different direction, saying cities across the state are drowning in unfunded pension liabilities. The threat to their solvency is go great, said Erlich, that he believes municipalities will resort to other means to avoid their pension obligations. “There’s a domino-effect,” he said, “following Stockton, cities will go into bankruptcy to avoid obligations. Judges made a ruling that that’s the way out.”

Similar to the lone candidates forum during the primary season, also featurin these two candidates in the same setting, Bonta appeared to take the 45-minute forum quite seriously. “I view an election as my public job review,” he said before offering the audience an assessment of his own work. Erlich, too, was circumspect about his candidacy, but also the state of the local Republican Party. He frustratingly lamented the party’s strategy for attracting voters. “The party leadership says you have to go to the left and bringthem to the right,” he told the group. “Why do I have to compromise my beliefs?