|Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski is almost a sure thing to win election Tuesday to the State Senate.|
ELECTION DAY ’14 | ANALYSIS | Election Day has become perverse. Big money is again flowing to Assembly races in East Bay just as they did two years ago. No matter whether it’s two Democrats or one from hailing from the red or blue side of the political spectrum these are battles only within the checkbooks of special interests. In the 16th Assembly District, Democrat Tim Sbranti is a pawn of the teachers union. Republican Catharine Baker a representative of right wing interests groups. Not much of what they debate has anything to do with Contra Costa County and the Tri Valley voters they hope to represent. The same thing is happening in the 15th Assembly District.
Whether or not you believe Big Oil interests want Tony Thurmond to win, one thing is clear, the most powerful corporations on Earth are using this election as a plaything for short-term prosperity. These examples occurred in 2012, too. Two solidly Democratic East Bay Assembly seats in the 18th and 20th District became a war of special interests money even though both General Election candidates were union-friendly Democrats seeking an open seat.
It almost seem like voters are mere obstacles to the real game being played at the Roulette table that is independent expenditure committees. And as aside, don’t believe the prohibition against campaigns and IEs from coordinating their messages. Of course there is coordination. For example, in Alameda, Councilmember Stewart Chen is running for re-election. An IE from Los Angeles named the Golden State PAC has spent lavishly to support Chen. How would a group from Southern California know to mimic Chen’s campaign specific stance for continuing the status quo in Alameda and why would they care anyway?
In Alameda County and statewide, most expect record low-turnout this Tuesday. Most will levy a stern tsk-tsk toward voters who stay away from the polls, but how can you blame them? There’s mistrust all over the electorate toward every level of government. Of course, people have been saying that about government for generations, but something different is occurring to exacerbated it further. This is the first election in my five years on the beat that I’ve notice a significant drop in the quality of candidates all over the East Bay. Are we at the point where not only are voters disinterested in fulfilling their civic duty, but potential candidates are, as well?
For instance, take San Leandro, where the worst crop of mayoral and city council candidates in the East Bay are running to replace more than half of the current council. This is an important election for this growing city. But, here’s some context to the level of quality in the mayor’s race. A few years back, I compiled a ranking of the best and worst council members in the East Bay. The listing never saw the light of day because three of bottom five came from the San Leandro City Council. Guess what? Two of them are the main candidates for mayor this November. In Alameda, at least they talk about some issues, but only five people total thought to run either for mayor or the city council? That’s some good odds for these candidates, but not for voters.
And despite consistent grumbling for the electorate, races from the BART and AC Transit Board of Director sit lightly contested. Politically, for those seeking higher office, these are plum seat that can catapult you quicker than running for local city offices. Oakland’s Rebecca Kaplan started at AC Transit and parlayed it into becoming one of the city’s most popular public officials. Over in Hayward and the Tri Cities, decades of poorly-performing schools that have kept down its growing minority population, have done nothing to foster solid representation from the city level to the Legislature.
In fact, this area sorely needs better representation more than anywhere else. It is the epicenter of crazy in East Bay politics, the land of Nadia Lockyer, Mary Hayashi and Hayward school members cheating on their spouses with each other. Nothing changes for the positive, but only gets worse. Today, the district will have a choice between a conservative State Senate candidate who does not fit the political persuasion of the district and two-term Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski who has served virtually without distinction. Yet, Wieckowski is a shoo-in for the State Senate even though the word even his most loyal supporter used to describe him is “goofy.”
Goofy. Imagine your ship is sinking at sea and the person on board chosen to save you all is the guy everybody thinks is goofy.