SD7 Election Preview: Which special interest will reign supreme?

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer and Assemblymember Susan Bonila

MEET THE CANDIDATES Susan Bonilla represents almost half of the voters in Seventh District as an Assemblymember representing a portion of Contra Costa County. She is also a former high school teacher and county supervisor who has the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the former holder of the seat, Mark DeSaulnier, who left the seat for Congress. But, the endorsement that holds the greatest implications in this special election is Bonilla’s strong ties to labor. Bonilla is also viewed as strong on education and the environment, although her stances on the latter are also similar to her opponent. Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer ran a similar campaign in last year’s 16th Assembly District. Heavy on portraying himself as a moderate Democrat and reformer far removed from the traditional liberal acquiescence to the demands of labor unions. His early opposition to BART strikes put him on the radar last year, but he still only finished third in Assembly race’s June Primary. This time around, the former consultant to Gov. Jerry Brown breezed to a nine-point victory in the March primary over Bonilla and another Democrat Joan Buchanan.

WHAT’S THE BEEF Maybe Bonilla and Glazer have differences in their platform, but there has been very little focus on substantive ideas and policies, as they pertain to representing the district in the State Senate. Like the March primary, this race has been a proxy war between labor unions supporting Bonilla and interests from the state Chamber of Commerce supporting Glazer, in addition, to over $2 million from centrist Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield. The Koch Brothers even reared their head in this race through an independent expenditure committee. On both sides millions have been spent by IEs that dwarfed astronomical outlays in last year’s Assembly race and State Senate primary in March. In fact, if they cared to do so, voters in the Seventh District could make a very thick coffee table book featuring all the direct-mail pieces that have been created for this special election. In a likely bid to return prominence to the BART strike issue, Glazer charged union members with illegal electioneering on BART premises. Bonilla agreed, but also charged Glazer with doing the same in the past. A heavy-circulated campaign photo from the Assembly race of Glazer perched on a BART platform confirmed the allegation.

PAST RESULTS 2015 Special Primary: 1. Steve Glazer (D) 37,664 (33.7%) 2. Susan Bonilla (D) 27,728 (24.8%) 3. Joan Buchanan (D) 25,147 (22.5%)4. Michaela Hertle (R) 18,008 (16.1%) 5. Terry Kremin (D) 3,175 (2.8%).

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%).

OUTLOOK Glazer put Bonilla’s campaign in an early hole with his strong performance in the primary. It’s not that Bonilla’s second place finish was poor, but that support between her base in Contra Costa County was so uneven as compared to her dismal 14 percent performance elsewhere in the district. This area is known for being a very educated electorate and vote-by-mail data shows every ideological category is outpacing turnout over the primary when over 22 percent of voters cast a ballot. However, other than the war of IEs in this race–already a continuation of the primary discussion–the subject of this race has not changed. This is a big potential misstep by Bonilla’s campaign since the default in this race is banning BART strikes and that’s Glazer’s greatest strength. Yet, the race didn’t really focus on BART strikes until the last few weeks when Glazer brought it back to the headlines. Labor’s overwhelming presence for Bonilla in this race might be her downfall. In an independent poll last Friday, 60 percent of respondents said they believe transit strikes should be prohibited. This means a boatload of union volunteers were swarming a district where they are not liked, which likely makes for some awkward Saturday afternoons for volunteers seeking votes for Bonilla. Also, don’t forget. These two, and others, can do it all again in 2016.

PREDICTION 1. Glazer 2. Bonilla

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