State Senate District 7 candidates: Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, former Assembymember Joan Buchanan and Assemblymember Susan Bonilla.

MEET THE CANDIDATES As an assemblymember, Susan Bonilla already represents almost half of the voters in the State Senate’s 7th District. The former high school teacher and Contra Costa County supervisor has the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the former holder of the seat, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier. Bonilla is also the favorite of labor unions, although, not entirely. Joan Buchanan, also a Democrat, represented the 16th Assembly District until she was termed out last December. Buchanan’s name I.D. is much greater in the southern half of the state senate district and, more importantly, the area with a slight majority of voters. Buchanan’s campaign often touts this demographic advantage. Colleagues and long-time advocates in the Tri Valley often label Buchanan as a public servant with a taste for the wonky aspects of legislation. Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, the third of four Democrats in the race, hopes to avenge a very similar campaign he lost during last year’s 16th Assembly District race. Glazer finished third in the June primary after deftly stoking the dissatisfaction among voters over BART strikes. The stance, however, made him public enemy number one to labor unions. This time around, Glazer hopes his centrist platforms will push him through to the top two general election on May 19. Democrat Terry Kremin is a scientist and Republican Michaela Hertle dropped out the race in February and endorsed Glazer.

One of two mailers from a labor-backed IE
telling Republicans to vote for the candidate
who dropped out of the race in February.

WHAT’S THE BEEF Just like the Assembly race, a focus on the issues has been lacking. In fact, the top three Democrats agree on many of the issues facing the Legislature. They are against fracking and the delta water tunnels. The trio also cites financing flaws for the state high-speed rail project and stand for expanding state funding for higher education. However, the subject that greatly divides Bonilla and Buchanan from Glazer is labor. The issue also risks to splinter the Democratic Party as labor-backed independent expenditure committees spend considerable resources on defeating a fellow Democrat for the second time in the last nine months, or, at the very least, push the more labor-friendly Bonilla and Buchanan to the general election. Money is not only flowing to individual campaigns, but also from special interest groups. By Election Day, the amount of money spent by IEs will top $2.5 million. Notably, the push by unions to undercut Glazer’s support among conservatives after endorsement of the Republican Hertle by an IE typically funded by labor for Asian American Democrats, might rub voters the wrong way. The key to the primary appears to rest on how Republicans and independents and moderate Democrats react to the controversy and whether they are aware Hertle is no longer in the race, even though her name still appears on the ballot.

PAST RESULTS 2012 June Primary: 1. Mark DeSaulnier (D) 91,224 (57.0%) 2. Mark Meuser (R) 68,730 (43.0%). 2012 General Election: 1. DeSaulnier (D) 229,105 (61.5%) 2. Meuser (R) 143,707 (38.5%).

VOTER REGISTRATION Democratic 210,970 (43.6%) Republican 103,854 (28.7%) 3. No Party Preference 106,268 (22.0%) American Independent 13,654 (2.8%) Libertarian 3,053 (0.6%) Green Party 2,020 (0.4%).

CAMPAIGN FINANCE (Through Feb 28): Bonilla $181,535 cash remaining, $480,901 received; Buchanan $111,248 cash remaining, $284,005 receiving; Glazer $94,918 cash remaining, $213,685 received; Hertle, no report; Kremin, no report.

OUTLOOK There are some many interesting angles to take into account here. Either Bonilla or Buchanan will finish in the top two, but likely not both after the controversies in the race. Vote-by-mail data showing Republicans sending in their ballots at higher rates than Democrats suggests they are energized. It’s unlikely this group is being stirred up by the Republican who had zero name I.D., no money and dropped out the race a month ago. Furthermore, if Republicans are being pushed to Glazer, independent are probably, too. Might even moderate Democrats be enticed by Glazer in this environment? It’s also important to note, the 15-point voter registration advantage Democrats hold over Republicans is not as wide as it seems since the 7th District is hardly the bastion of progressive politics, although there are some strongholds. So, if Glazer advances, who does he face in May? If you ask Democrats in Sacramento, they will likely say, Bonilla. But, that support may be derived from her incumbency and the fact her colleagues are averse from criticizing one of their own. At the local level, you more often hear predictions for Buchanan. It’s tough to say which group is correct. However, the argument Buchanan is more well-known to voters in a majority of the state senate district seems as plausible as any. Another thing to remember: while turnout is higher than expected for a special election, it’s still likely to be very low in the grand scheme of things. Low turnout elections often brings strange results. If, indeed, Glazer is in the mix, you can guarantee another onslaught of special interests money pouring in to support and greatly oppose, is candidacy.

PREDICTION 1. Buchanan 2. Glazer 3. Bonilla 4. Hertle 5. Kremin