First Senate race debate set for Friday

The first debate between the two presumed candidates for state Senate District 7 is set for Friday at the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s monthly evening meeting.

Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg and Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will take questions from club members starting about 8 p.m. at the Orinda Community Church, 10 Irwin Way in Orinda.

The men are likely senate candidates but the outcome of a term limits measure on the February 2008 presidential ballot could dramatically alter the political landscape in this race and many others.

Here’s why: The February measure would allow lawmakers to serve up to 12 years in either the Senate or the Assembly, a shift from the current law which restricts officeholders to eight years in the Senate and six in the Assembly. More relevant to the upcoming election, however, is a special provision in the proposed law that would allow incumbents who would have termed out under the old law to remain in office.

The incumbent senator in District 7 is Tom Torlakson of Antioch. If voters change the law, he says he will run for re-election. If law remains intact, Torlakson will run for his former Assembly seat now held by his friend, DeSaulnier. (Torlakson only served two terms in Assembly District 11 prior to running for the Senate, leaving him one term.)

Torlakson’s move to run for the Assembly forces DeSaulnier to seek the Senate seat in order to remain in the Legislature. The new law would also permit Canciamilla to run for his old Assembly seat, where he would most likely have to run against DeSaulnier.

Regardless of whether DeSaulnier and Canciamilla face off in the Senate or the Assembly primary, Friday night’s debate at the Lamorinda Democratic Club serves as the unofficial kick-off the contest between the two men.

It’s also an important event because this race will be very likely be decided in the June primary. Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in this district and it’s unlikely that a member of the GOP could win here.

The members of the Lamorinda Democratic Party are generally liberal in their politics. Led by progressive advocate Terry Leach, former director of the Rockridge Institute, the well-attended club opposes the Iraq War and favors universal health care. The environment could feel friendlier to DeSaulnier, who is the more liberal of the two candidates, as Canciamilla is widely known for his involvement in the “Mod Squad” in the Legislature, a coalition of moderate lawmakers of both parties.

The debate is open to the public. Admission is $5 and free for students. For more details, call
925-210-7337 or visit www.lamorindademoclub.com.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen