21 DAYS TO PRIMARY DAY | Republican Assemblymember Catharine Baker has a big problem and its name is Donald J. Trump.

In the purple-tinted Contra Costa County and Tri Valley 16th Assembly District, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is a potential drag on her re-election efforts. Although, not necessarily in June, but likely a major problem come November.

Baker told the East Bay Times she will not vote for Trump in November. She also won’t vote for Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

So, she isn’t going to vote at all?

Baker ran an excellent campaign in 2014 to become the first Republican legislator to be elected since 2008. But, despite Baker’s successful first term, it wouldn’t take much for this district to be flipped.

Assemblymember Catharine Baker at a town hall
last February in Orinda.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon vowed to focus on unseating Baker and helping former Pleasanton Councilmember Cheryl Cook-Kallio take back the seat last held by Joan Buchanan.

Its unclear, however, how Trump factors into the equation this June. If the middle-to-upper class enclaves of the district are energized by Trump and rush to the polls, they may view Baker favorably, Like Trump, you could view Baker as an anti-establishment candidate, even though she is an incumbent.

The interesting part of this race is that the reverse could happen in November (As the only primary candidates, under open primary rules, a rematch is assured in the fall). If voters have a choice between Trump and Clinton, the 16th District large total percentage of Democratic and unaffiliated voters may favor Cook-Kallio.

Such a scenario could put Baker in a very unpredictable position. Does she run from the Republican standard bearer and risk losing a portion of the party’s roughly one-third of total registered voters? Moreover, sitting out an entire presidential election is not a tenable position for any incumbent to make, especially when all the challenger needs to do is to systematically link you to Trump all the way to November.

Nancy Skinner has already handed Sandre Swanson
a defeat in Alameda by winning the backing of the
city’s Democratic club.

A PLAY FOR THE BIG A The shorthand analysis of the state Senate’s Ninth District race is this: Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson have strongholds in the portions of the district they once represented as assemblymembers. That means Skinner is strong in Berkeley and Richmond, while Swanson swings hardest in Oakland and Alameda. Name-recognition for both in their respective areas is high and their progressive chops mirror the region. But with most expecting Skinner will finish first in the June primary, her campaign is making a bold early foray into siphoning votes away from Swanson territory, especially in Alameda. Skinner held a house party in Alameda last month. The event was even featured on a mailer to some Alameda Democrats. Then Skinner held another event at Park Street restaurant. Two weeks ago, she even popped back onto the island to attend a fundraiser for Alameda Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft’s re-election. Furthermore, in February, Skinner disappointed Swanson’s expectation of gaining the endorsement of the Alameda Democratic Club. Skinner already has a decisive money advantage over Swanson–at last count, by a factor of 10-to-1. If Swanson can’t hold onto Alameda, his chances of winning in November become even less likely.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta, left, faced a lone
Republican in 2014 and thumped him by 70 points.

PLACEHOLDERS Within a week in February, several East Bay state and federal legislative races featuring Democratic incumbents were neatly matched with just a single Republican candidate. In the Assembly, Rob Bonta drew Roseann Slonsky-Breault, Tony Thurmond got Claire Chiara, and Bill Quirk received Luis Wong. Then, Rep. Barbara Lee and Eric Swalwell drew former Alameda County GOP Chair Sue Caro and Danny Turner, respectively. None of it is a coincidence, but a gambit to garner the entire share of Republican voter, no matter how sparse, in each race. In each race, it’s all but a certainty the Democrat will easily win in both June and November. But, say, three Republicans in a race runs the risk of pushing all of the challengers into the low single-digits. Gathering a higher percentage of the vote for one Republican, like Caro is attempting in Lee’s 13th Congressional District, could give the challenger the power to appoint delegates with their own brand of right wing ideology to the party’s state convention. Rather than winning, it’s something, right? It’s also a sign of how long and tedious the Republican Party’s road to respectability really amounts to in the East Bay.