I spent yesterday starting to unpack what the new top-two system hath wrought upon California’s state legislative and House races – something we’ll be unpacking for years, I suspect – but today I’ve some time to dissect the still-unofficial results in few interesting Bay Area races.
15th Congressional District
Incumbent Pete Stark, D-Fremont, finished first with 41.8 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, at 36 percent; eliminated was conservative independent Chris Pareja, a Hayward businessman, at 22.2 percent. Stark is in trouble – I can’t imagine a single, solitary Pareja voter switching to Stark, but I can imagine lots of them voting for anybody but Stark. Stark won the Alameda County sections of the district 42.9 percent to Swalwell’s 35.3 percent, but Swalwell prevailed in the smaller Contra Costa area, 40 percent to Stark’s 33.1 percent.
Stark’s best hopes are that elevated Democratic turnout and the coattails of President Obama (who endorsed him) will give him an edge in November, while the more moderate Swalwell will continue romancing not only Democrats but also independents and Republicans. The key to Stark’s strategy might be saying as little as possible in live public appearances, given his disastrous spring gaffes.
20th Assembly District
Hayward councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, finished first in the race for this open seat, with 30.2 percent of the vote, followed by fellow Democrat Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, at 24.9 percent. Eliminated were Union City Mayor Mark Green, an independent, at 20.9 percent; Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso, a Republican, at 18.1 percent; and Union City school board member Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat, at 5.8 percent.
This was somewhat surprising, as I thought Green – mayor for 19 years – would have the name recognition to finish second behind Quirk. But Green, a longtime Democrat, switched to no-party-preference in 2010 and probably had hoped he’d attract the district’s voters who wouldn’t vote for a Democrat; that was foiled by Reynoso’s relatively late entry into the race. Ong, meanwhile, staged a direct-mail blitz – my household got 13 pieces of mail from her (including my favorite of this season), compared to two from Quirk, two from Green and one from Cheema. Quirk has the party establishment’s support, and easily is the odds-on favorite for November.
25th Assembly District
Incumbent Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, finished with 41.4 percent of the vote, followed by Republican ArLyne Diamond, a management consultant from Santa Clara, at 30.7 percent; eliminated was Democrat Pete McHugh, at 27.9. This district was radically redrawn last year, splitting Wieckowski’s power base in Fremont (where he was a councilman) and extending much further down into Santa Clara County. That’s where McHugh, Milpitas’ vice mayor and a former county supervisor, hoped his name recognition would give him an edge.
But ultimately, Wieckowski ran neck-and-neck with McHugh in Santa Clara County – a difference of only 10 votes out of the almost 20,000 cast for the two of them – while beating McHugh 4-to-1 in Alameda County. The district is registered 45.3 percent Democrat, 19.7 percent Republican and 30.5 percent no-party-preference, so it’ll be tough (read as: nothing short of a miracle) for Diamond to carry it in November.