EAST BAY ELECTION NOTES: The Reckoning For Khanna, Sbranti; A Budding Political Rival For Bonta?

Ro Khanna should be praying Rep. Ami Bera
pulls it out in CA-9.

STATE LEGISLATURE | In politics, like other arenas of life, there’s losing and then there’s royally screwing up and losing. This happen in two races that include Alameda County and bracketed by neighbors to the north and south.

Not only did Ro Khanna lose to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, but the significant amount of money the Democratic Party was forced to spend to keep the incumbent’s seat safe from a fellow Democrat quickly turned some local activists further against the upstart. That’s because Sacramento Rep. Ami Bera found himself in a very close race with Republican Doug Ose. Bera has since closed the gap and took the lead in the race, as of today, but Democrats are already blaming Khanna for the need to spend money in the South Bay rather than in a district in danger of being flipped to red.

Similarly, keeping a district some shade of blue is something Tim Sbranti did not do in the Assembly 16th District. A union-friendly Tri Valley official always seemed like a dubious expenditure for labor to be lavishing so much money upon. It simply did not work even with millions coming from the California Teachers Association and Sbranti lost the race to Republican political newbie Catharine Baker.

Since February, I had been raising concerns about Sbranti’s uncertain demeanor and odd lack of passion for his own arguments. It’s almost as if Sbranti was feeling some sort of internal conflict throughout the year. Oakland mayoral candidate Courtney Ruby exhibited the same sense that she was always thinking, “I don’t want to be here and just let me get through this so I can just go home!”

Conversely, it appeared like Baker sensed Sbranti’s fear and fed off it. It gave her confidence and it showed. This would all make perfect sense, however, if you had never seen Sbranti at the helm as Dublin mayor. In this settin, he’s confident, humorous and vaguely paternal. I don’t know where that guy went, but neither is going the State Legislature next month.

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In other local state and federal races, there was little doubt over their outcomes. Tony Thurmond again showed in the 15th Assembly District when all things are equal, including political affiliations, the cult of personality will always prevail. Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee again won re-election and did it with the highest percentage of voters in any race in the East Bay. Over 88 percent of voters chose Lee over the Republican Dakin Sundeen.

Over the past three elections, Lee and Assemblymember Rob Bonta have traded the mantle of top vote-getter and this also shows how quickly Bonta has become a popular fixture in the area. In fact, his star has risen so high and the field of potential roadblocks to higher office have diminished that he virtually stands at the top of the list for any potential opening like, say, if Lee decides to retire in the next few years. Keep in mind, Bonta can bide his time in the Legislature for another 10 years. General consensus is he will choose to stay in the Assembly and build toward a top leadership position instead of moving to the State Senate.

But, a potential challenger to Bonta’s hegemony might one day emerge in Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf. She is young, 49, and Oakland’s current status suggests Schaaf’s administration could do great things for the city. If Schaaf has designs on higher office in the distant future, it’s easy to foresee her and Bonta becoming rivals.

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