AD16 PREVIEW: If You’ve Got the Money, Honey, I’ve Got the Time

Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and Tri Valley attorney Catharine Baker.

MEET THE CANDIDATES Catherine Baker, you are the only hope for Republicans in the East Bay on Nov. 4. The first-time candidate is not only the local party’s best prospect, but also one in the only conceivable area that could elect a Republican. The Contra Costa County seat which includes much of the Tri Valley in Alameda County has the right numbers in terms of party affiliation and the moderate political climate to possibly turn this blue Assembly seat back to red for the first time in six years. Baker is somewhat of an old school Republican, the kind who focuses more on the pocket book and less on social issues. She’s against high-speed rail, against higher taxes and proposes returning power from Sacramento to local municipalities. The state of education in California is also a frequent punching bag for Baker. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti is a moderate Democrat, but one with loads of labor support. The California Teachers Association has backed Sbranti’s campaign since the primary. Assuredly they like his politics, but that he’s also a high school teacher. In fact, Rep. Eric Swalwell was one of his pupils. If Baker’s conservative approach has a chance in AD16, so does Sbranti’s moderate ideology. This seat last belonged to termed out Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, whose politics mimics Sbranti’s

WHAT’S THE BEEF There’s the fight on the campaign trail and there’s the fight among special interests. Similar to the primary when over $3 million was spent, primarily for and against Democrats Steve Glazer and Sbranti, the general election has seen rivers of independent expenditures. Much of the outlay has come in the last few weeks. Conservative-backed IE Spirit of Democracy California, for instance, dropped more than $1 million on behalf of Baker. The move was a reaction to another cool million spent in combination of Sbranti’s own campaign and the IE represented by the teachers’ union. Baker’s strategy is to describe Sbranti in the mold of just another tax-and-spend Democrat in Sacramento. Sbranti is using a similar move to tie Baker to the Tea Party with the IE partially funded by Republican activist Charles Munger as proof.

PAST RESULTS 2014 June Primary: 1. Catherine Baker 31,632 (36.7%) 2. Tim Sbranti 25,217 (29.2%) 3. Steve Glazer 19,636 (22.8%) 4. Newell Anerich 9,794 (11.4%). 2012 General Election: 1. Joan Buchanan (D) 125,952 (59.2%) 2. Al Phillips (R) 86,803 (40.8%).

CAMPAIGN FINANCE (Through Sept. 30): Sbranti $59,507 cash on hand, $1,591,481 since last filing: Baker $55,771 cash on hand, $169,853 since last filing.

OUTLOOK Baker is a very capable candidate, which is especially surprising since she has no other political experience other working briefly in her 20s for Rep. Mary Bono. Sbranti, however, has proven to be an excellent mayor in Dublin, but his energy level is a concern. On the issues, the special interests money, and the makeup of the candidates represent a stalemate. But, the difference at the polls may follow Baker’s uncertain position on Proposition 2, the rainy day fund initiative. Baker did not flip-flop on the issue, but Sbranti deftly latched onto the nuance in her answers and may have successfully undermined her candidacy. The mailer Sbranti’s campaign sent asserting Baker opposes Prop. 2 hurt and the quick response from Baker only highlighted the blow’s power.

PREDICTION 1. Sbranti 2. Baker