East Bay races to watch tonight

East Bay races to watch

As we head into the final hours of the primary election, here’s a recap of hot East Bay races to watch tonight.

It’s not a question of whether Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, will win tonight but rather by how much. Roll Call in Washington, D.C., quoted pundits today that suggest if liberal GOP opponent Pete McCloskey takes a third of the vote, it could signal deep dissatisfaction with Pombo. McCloskey, with the help of a handful of liberal environmental groups, has been hammering Pombo over the lawmaker’s ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, campaign contributions from oil and mining interests and efforts to rewrite federal environmental laws.

The outcome here, along with the fate of fellow conservative Rep. John Doolittle in the Sierra foothills, will offer plenty of pundit fodder about the strength of a national Democratic wave as we move toward the November general election.

And what about the Democratic ticket?

No one, except their respective campaign managers, is predicting which of two front-runners will emerge victorious tonight. Democratic primaries tend to favor liberals, which gives a slight edge to the wind energy consultant Jerry McNerney. But airline pilot Steve Filson has more money, which is one of politics great equalizers.

Regardless of which Democrat seizes the primary prize, he can look forward to a nationalized campaign that both parties will be watching. And you can bet those national interests won’t be silent partners, either.

Assembly District 11 has been one of the nastiest races in recent East Bay history as two powerful Democratic factions fight for political dominance in a campaign marked with mailers, signs and television ads rife with distortions.

In one camp is Laura Canciamilla, wife of outgoing incumbent Joe Canciamilla and a moderate and relative political novice best known for her expertise as an educator and anti-sprawl activist.

On the other side of the aisle is Mark DeSaulnier, a veteran elected county leader with ample campaign funds, experience and the endorsement of just about every major politician and labor group in the area.

Independent expenditure money is also pouring into both sides as part of a statewide strategy by special interest groups that hope to orchestrate favorable legislative blocs.

Canciamilla, in particular, has benefited because the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, JOBSPAC, has spent thousands in support of her candidacy at a time when she didn’t have much money. She has spent quite a bit of her own money, in fact.

The word on the political gossip train is that tracking polls show the pair are in a statistical dead heat. But neither side is making those results public, so take that with a sizable chunk of sodium.

Similar scenarios are playing out in Assembly District 18 in the Tri-Valley and Senate District 10, where moderate and liberal interest PACS have spent tens of thousands of dollars flooding voters’ mailboxes and airwaves with hit pieces.

One has to wonder: When does the volume of negative campaigning grow so loud that voters tune out?

Most asked about this race today predict Concord Mayor Susan Bonilla will easily take the number one spot but no one expects she will win the seat outright. That would take 50 percent plus 1 vote; it’s a difficult hurdle in a race with four candidates.

The bigger unknown is who will win that all-important second place slot and the chance to compete in the November run-off.

Will it be Mt. Diablo School Board Trustee Gary Eberhart or Contra Costa Taxpayers chief Kris Hunt?

My crystal ball, unfortunately, is still in the shop and won’t be repaired before today’s votes are counted.