East Bay Primary Winners & Losers

Except for the 15th Assembly District race, the East Bay’s June Primary was put to bed Wednesday morning. Here are the winners and losers from Election Night:

WINNERS

PAMELA PRICE – Here’s some perspective: Last fall, Pamela Price couldn’t even muster a credible push to become 18th Assembly District chair for the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. Yet roughly nine months later, Price put a major scare into entrenched Alameda County District Nancy O’Malley and nearly had the entire county establishment–from some supervisors and prosecutors in the DA’s office, privately looking for retirement or new jobs. From late last year through March, Price had an extremely disorganized campaign, but the powerhouse message of police and prosecutorial reforms that may outlive her campaign. In the end, Price’s campaign, although ill-fated, may be the beginning of the end for Alameda County’s extremely intricate and successful system of maintaining the status quo. On the downside, all of us will miss out on that first meeting between Price and Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern. A scene that would have been analogous to if President Kennedy met with Fidel Castro the day after the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Price Pamela CADClub
Pamela Price in Alameda last February. PHOTO/Zac Goldstein

BUFFY WICKS – There is certainly signs that the fall election in the 15th Assembly District could be problematic for Wicks. But for today, her campaign got the job done Tuesday. With roughly 31 percent of the vote in a competitive field of 12 candidates, the result is a strong performance, and when all the votes are counted, possibly double the eventually second-place winner. Anything less could have been disastrous for Wicks because of the high expectations that come with more than a half million dollars in contributions and a reported legion of campaign volunteers. Wicks easily cleared the first hurdle. But based on the perception that she is the charter school candidate began to solidify around Wicks over the past few weeks, it’s not clear which of the unlikely 10 candidates will endorse her over either Kalb or Beckles. Nevertheless, here comes the big special interest IEs invading the district.

DAN KALB and/or JOVANKA BECKLES – With a 182-vote difference between the candidates for the second spot in the November General Election against Buffy Wicks, this race is too early to call. Yet despite what Ricky Bobby’s believes his daddy told him that, “If you’re not first, you’re last,” that’s not the case in California’s top-two primary system. Throughout the race, Kalb seemed like a stalking horse waiting to make his move at the final turn, which apparently was his plan. But on Election Night, it was Beckles literally making that late move within the results tally. Beckles justified a belief among some insiders that she was surging with a week to go, as evidenced, by mediocre vote-by-mail results, followed by roughly 200-vote gains on Kalb through successive updates. There’s reason to believe the outstanding ballots yet to be counted will continue this trend. If so, Beckles will have done so by being the most progressive candidate in the race and the least-financed among AD15’s big seven candidates.

ALSO-RAN – In a field of 25 candidates seeking to become the leader of the fifth-largest economy in the world, finishing ninth should be quite an accomplishment. Yet that’s what Peter Liu, the Oakland resident, raconteur and possible performance artist did Tuesday night. Some in the media mocked him probably because they were unable to understand they were in fact the joke. Yet, Liu showed his ability to attract attention is unrivaled in the East Bay. Sure, Liu, the self-described “World’s Smartest Leader” earned just 0.9 percent of the vote, but that’s more than 10,000 votes. Many East Bay candidates running conventional campaigns this fall should take a class from Liu about how to advance your ideas to a larger audience and for next to nothing.

LOSERS

NANCY O’MALLEY – Yes, she staved off a worthy and aggressive challenger in Pamela Price, and O’Malley may be a better campaigner as result of this race, but she certainly isn’t walking away in one piece. A large portion of the more than 40 percent of the electorate who voted for Price did so harboring intense anger toward the DA. Big time contributions from police unions only strengthened the underlining criticism by O’Malley’s detractors that her office is in cahoots with police. The big question going forward is whether O’Malley really heard the angry chorus of criticism against her and institutes her own reforms over the next four years. Or, does she disappear into the cloak of darkness where transparency and accountability is often trapped at the county level?

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Nancy O’Malley addressing lawyers at the Alameda County Bar Association in Oakland last month.

CHANGE IN ALAMEDA COUNTY – Incumbent Nancy O’Malley wasn’t the only entrenched or entrenched by associated candidate to win at the polls Tuesday night. The county’s handpicked successor for Auditor-Controller-Recorder Melissa Wilk easily beat Irella Blackwood and a number of elected officials, like Supervisors Wilma Chan and Richard Valle, and Sheriff Greg Ahern won re-election by default because they were unopposed.

KANSEN CHU – Assuredly not the biggest loser by any stretch. Chu, a Democrat, won the primary in the Fremont-South Bay’s 25th Assembly District and will certainly win in the fall. But for a two-term incumbent, Chu’s 50 percent share of the four-person field seems a bit noteworthy. Chu is not a good fundraiser for himself or the party and his legislative achievements are not impressive. Furthermore, Democrat Carmen Montano won 22 percent of the vote, a number that seems high in a race with an establishment Democrat. Republican Bob Brunton, who also ran against Chu in 2016, earned 25 percent of the vote. It all seems like Chu might be vulnerable. Alas, a Republican can’t win in AD25, but an independent might. Someone, if she lives in the district, like Fremont Mayor Lily Mei–who is registered No Party Preference.

MEASURE A – The half-cent sales tax increase to fund childcare and early education in Alameda County looks like a loser, as of Wednesday. But it could still reach the two-thirds majority needed for passage with potentially tens of thousands of ballots still to be counted county-wide. At the moment, Measure A is about two percent short. But if it doesn’t pull through, this effort amounts to a dismal use of time, money, and effort. More than $1 million went into this campaign. Worse, it was funded by some big names–Marc Benioff, Kaiser Permanente, SEIU, and $250,000 from the non-profit East Bay Community Foundation. The latter raises the question of whether one-quarter of a million dollars for a loser ballot measure is a proper use of a non-profit’s funds? In the end, if Measure A is defeated, it will be clear that its message of helping the children only applied to the paid political consultant’s own children (if he has any).

CALIFORNIA NURSES ASSOCIATION – This will be quick and painless: CNA’s PAC spent $191,000 on mailers and billboards for 15th Assembly District candidate Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto and she received just 4,926 votes. Her 8.5 percent of the vote barely outpaced Republican Pranav Jandhyala’s 6.7 percent, who didn’t spend a dime and never showed up for any events!

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