PREVIEW: Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 1

Alameda County District 1 supervisorial candidates, seated left to right, Melissa Hernandez, David Haubert, Bob Wieckowski, and Vinnie Bacon at a candidate forum last January in Pleasanton.

Meet the Candidates

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ALCO District 1 March primary candidates: Bob Wieckowski, Vinnie Bacon, David Haubert, and Melissa Hernandez.
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Bob Wieckowski represents the 10th State Senate District, which includes Fremont, but not the Tri-Valley half of District 1 on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Prior to the state Senate, Wieckowski served in the Assembly and before that, the Fremont City Council. Wieckowski is termed out of the Legislature in 2022. Wieckowski is backed by establishment Democrats and some labor unions.

Vinnie Bacon has served two terms on the Fremont City Council, where he serves with wife, Councilmember Jenny Kassan. Bacon will be termed out this November. Along with Wieckowski, Bacon represents the progressive wing in this race. Throughout his political career, Bacon has attempted to burnish the reputation of a maverick. This has made him enemies within the Alameda County Democratic Party, but he has been consistent in being the candidate who does not accept campaign contributions from housing developers. Those are the Fremont candidates. These are the Tri-Valley candidates:

Dublin Mayor David Haubert is serving his second term. He previously served on the Dublin school board. Haubert, an independent, who describes himself as the only candidate in the race who can draw support from both Democrats and Republican, alike.

Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez was elected to the Dublin City Council in 2016. She is the only woman in the race and the only minority. Two descriptions her campaign has used to differentiate her from the others in the field. Retiring District 1 Supervisor Scott Haggerty endorses both Hernandez and Wieckowski, but a recent commercial makes it clear that Haggerty is offering much stronger support for Hernandez.

What’s the Beef?

It took an inordinate amount of time for this race to heat up. Maybe the natural rhythm of California primary politics was interrupted by the move from June to March? Whatever the reason, the gloves are now off. Early in the campaign, Haubert and Bacon took aim at Wieckowski with varying success. Wieckowski is the political insider, the candidate that represents Sacramento’s zeal to take away local control, according to Haubert. Bacon attacked Wieckowski — actually all his opponents — for their reliance on political contributions from special interests like housing developers. Bacon called it a “pay-to-play” scheme.

But then the focus changed to Bacon’s assertion that electing any of his opponents will hasten development (additional traffic) in the district. Bacon’s opponents counter by saying land-use issues are not a major focus of being a county supervisor. It’s why Haggerty spoke up at a candidate forum in Pleasanton to ask the candidates to describe exactly what the job of county supervisor entails. He’s still apparently dissatisfied with their answers. Later, when Bacon criticized housing developments in East Dublin, the Dublin candidates in the race jumped all over him. Hernandez said she was appalled by Bacon’s comments, and Haubert said Bacon was slamming the voters that he wants to represent.

Prior Results

2016 PrimaryVotesPct.
Haggerty44,29697.43%
Write-in1,1702.57%

Moneyball

Thru Jan. 18Total $$ RaisedCash on Hand
Haubert$151,427$128,878
Wieckowski$119,760$90,315
Hernandez$140,009$88,283
Bacon$111,403$68,855

Analysis

Money doesn’t appear to be a determining factor in this race. That’s unique because a contested race for Alameda County supervisor typically features the issue of money and who has the most. Haubert, Hernandez, and Wieckowski, have all basically raised around $150,000 once the final pre-election reports are filed. Bacon falls short, but that is expected if you’re running a “clean money” campaign. However, his fundraising is quite good based on the restrictions he’s placed on his campaign.

Bacon’s laser focus on land-use and housing development is what all the candidates are talking about.

But while many won’t hazard a guess about the outcome of the primary, if you take into account the main issue that has emerged during the campaign and who shaped the narrative, the landscape of the race becomes somewhat clear. Bacon’s laser focus on land-use and housing development is what all the candidates are talking about. Even Haggerty has joined the fray. Land-use only makes up only a small sliver of a supervisor’s time, Haggerty said. He has also called out Bacon for “fear-mongering” when it comes to potential increased housing density in District 1. You can debate and criticize Bacon’s stances on housing density and affordable housing, his denunciation of developers, but it doesn’t matter. Bacon is controlling the narrative and his clean money schtick resonates with voters. Among the four candidates, its is usually Bacon who gets the most head nods at candidate forums. Even if not entirely swayed, these audience members appear to have Bacon’s attention.

Haubert could also be a dark horse. He’s attractive to conservatives and the faith-based communities. Haubert also has money, but it’s not entirely clear what his campaign is doing on the ground. It may be significant. Maybe he’s energizing people who don’t usually vote? Meanwhile, Hernandez has run a by-the-book campaign. No frills and few specifics. The mailers are good. The commercials are solid. Since it appears Haggerty is fully backing Hernandez, even though he’s also endorsing Wieckowski, the primary’s outcome could be a referendum on Haggerty’s tenure as supervisor. Remember, he hasn’t had to run a re-election campaign since being elected in 1996. We don’t have any electoral numbers to know how popular he is in District 1.

The candidates with the most to lose on Mar. 3 is Wieckowski. He could very well finish out of the top two next week. Such an outcome would be an enormous embarrassment for him. A sitting state senator can’t even make a runoff for county supervisor? For someone with his resume, he sure doesn’t seem to be well-known in the district. Wieckowski has appeared lackluster at candidate forums and his campaign has seemed desultory. It’s almost like he expected to be county supervisor without having to fight for it. However, a number of people, including his opponents, have remarked about Wieckowski’s renewed vigor, at least, when it comes to walking door-to-door. But what is he telling voters?

Among the candidates, Wieckowski sounds the most progressive. This isn’t Oakland, so talking a good progressive game has many downsides in the Tri-Valley and Fremont. Talking about his signature accessory dwelling units bill only sounds like more neighborhood traffic congestion to District 1 voters. If Wieckowski advances, he’s going to need to move toward the center. Hernandez will need to continue the learning curve she has created in recent months. She has the least experience of the four, but also the most upside. Many candidates in long campaigns like this one show great improvement just by being in the arena for extended amount of time. On her current course, Hernandez could be in a good rhythm when it counts after Memorial Day. So, who advances? The most likely outcome is to pick one candidate from the Fremont pot, and one from the Dublin pot.

Prediction

Are you nuts? Safe bet: There’s a November runoff.