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.


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.

Categories: 2014 Election, AD20, Ami Bera, Assembly, Barbara Lee, CA13, CA17, CA9, Catharine Baker, congress, Libby Schaaf, Mike Honda, Oakland, Ro Khanna, Tim Sbranti

8 replies

  1. Ro is just going to fade into the sunset, there could someone on the scene in the future


  2. ” but Democrats are already blaming Khanna for the need to spend money in the South Bay”

    Sure and this is the same group my fellow Democrats who are so brain dead that they'd be saying the same thing if Pete Stark were still in office and being challenged.
    They are so sick and stuck in cement that they want NO CHALLENGES to their chosen princes.

    Just like Stark, Honda deserved a good challenge. The problem was NOT that Bera didn't have enough money, but that these brain dead Democrats chose to prop up a ineffective and sleepy Mike Honda, only on the basis that he was a sacred “incumbent”… Remember, the majority of these same folks were all for Pete Stark despite his obvious mental deterioration.
    Heck, if Pete hadn't been challenged by Swalwell in 2012, this same group of sycopants would have still kept supporting him even this year.

    They honor incumbency far more than effectiveness.
    Honda will now give us 2 or 4 more years of mediocre service.
    He is nothing more than a reliable vote.
    Now the district must wait years more for a excellent leader.

    Compare Honda to someone like George Miller, who BTW, had the good sense to step down before it was obvious he needed to.
    George Miller was worth 3 Mike Honda's in Washington power. Everyone knows that.


  3. Bitter party of one … 10:53 am


  4. What a specious argument to assert that there should never be challengers to incumbents; that they risk being held responsible for the losses in races of over 50-100 miles away. That's seems silly. And really, when you look at it, only silly people are propagating that argument. I'd also venture that the argument has racist overtones, particularly because it pits Khanna and Bera against each other, as though only one Indo is allowed to serve in Congress.

    Ro Khanna has the right to run for office. Period. That's the beauty of our democracy. The people of CA-17 were subject to a lively campaign. I had no idea that Congressman Honda had so few legislative accomplishments throughout his tenure in office, but I'd be willing to bet my bottom dollar that he will try a hell of a lot harder to turn that around. And perhaps, he won't be successful in doing so, but that's ok. He will put in the effort to perform better as the Representative of this district, and that's the best possible outcome.

    Khanna could have gone for any other seat, and the outcome likely would have been the same. He would have usurped local manpower and resources that would have otherwise been put to use for some other purpose. Khanna could have grabbed at low-hanging fruit this past election cycle with the plethora of options available. He could have decided to run for Congress in the 15th District against a newly-elected member who likely was the beneficiary of the protest vote against Stark, which is hardly a mandate. Alternatively, he could have chosen to vie for State Senate or State Assembly against a weak field of candidates. Instead, he chose to run for Congress against Honda, choosing to scale Kilimanjaro instead of, say, Mount Diablo. The race attracted a lot of national media coverage that otherwise would not have occurred, but so what?

    In sum, the argument is not a credible one, and I suspect that it is not being made sincerely by those who wish Khanna would simply go away because he poses a threat to incumbents and the natural order of things 'round these parts.


  5. He's no threat


  6. Khanna was bought by big business and the voters trusted the man of the ordinary citizen to be their Representative, who was the more likable Mike Honda.


  7. why build up a losing candidate?


  8. If Ro runs Mike Honda again, he will definitely lose again. Mike is well thought of in this District.


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