SD7: Joan Buchanan endorses Susan Bonilla

Former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, who came in third in yesterday’s 7th State Senate District special primary election, emailed supporters Wednesday afternoon with a plea to vote for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the May 19 general election.

“While last night’s results weren’t what we were expecting, I am incredibly grateful to all of you for believing in me, your time and all your hard work,” wrote Buchanan, an Alamo Democrat who was term-limited out of the 16th Assembly District seat last year.

“I’m proud of the campaign that we ran; I’m proud that we stuck to our pledge to run a positive-only campaign; and I’m proud of how many of you truly took to heart our shared vision for a better future,” she wrote. “It’s clear that our positive messages of a quality education for every child, protecting our precious environment and creating a better California resounded with tens of thousands of voters.”

With some mail-in ballots yet to be counted, current results show Buchanan got 22.6 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s top-two primary, finishing third behind Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer (32.8 percent) and Bonilla (24.9 percent); Glazer and Bonilla will face off in May, while Buchanan and two others are now eliminated.

Buchanan wrote that she called Bonilla, D-Concord, on Tuesday night to offer congratulations. “I ask you to support her bid to be our next State Senator,” she wrote.

The endorsement is hardly surprising, given that Buchanan and Bonilla didn’t disagree on much. But given the primary results, it’ll take a lot more than this endorsement to help Bonilla best Glazer in May.


SD7: Looks like May will be a nail-biter

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla should be starting to sweat right about now.

Steve GlazerMy colleague Matt Artz has the lowdown on yesterday’s 7th State Senate District special primary election. As of Wednesday morning, with some mail-in ballots still to be counted, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer – the centrist Democrat in this race, backed by entities including the California Chamber of Commerce – topped the list at 32.8 percent, while Bonilla, D-Concord – a more liberal candidate with strong union backing – came in second at 24.9 percent.

They’ll go on to the special general election on May 19. Eliminated in yesterday’s primary were former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, at 22.6 percent; Michaela Hertle, a Republican businesswoman from Pleasanton who dropped out Feb. 2 and endorsed Glazer, at 17 percent; and Concord Democrat Terry Kremin, who barely campaigned at all, at 2.8 percent.

It’s not surprising that Glazer and Bonilla made the cut. Massive independent spending on their behalf caught Buchanan in a crossfire from which there was little chance of escape.

But yesterday’s numbers show a surprisingly tough road ahead for Bonilla. If you figure those who voted for Hertle will now swing toward Glazer, that puts him close to the 50 percent mark. And while it’s hard to imagine many Hertle voters suddenly swinging all the way across the spectrum to support Bonilla, it’s easier to imagine some Buchanan voters choosing Glazer, which could put him over the top.

Democrats hold a 15-point registration edge in this district, but the party’s leftward edge is blunted in low-turnout elections – of which this certainly was one.

With 97,104 votes counted so far and an estimated 13,432 ballots still left to count as of Wednesday morning, it seems that about 110,536 voters actually bothered to turn out for this special primary. In a district with 488,596 voters, that’s an abysmal 22.6 percent turnout. Maybe that will improve in May’s general election, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Susan BonillaUnions now will double down to mobilize voters for Bonilla, but that doesn’t always lead to a win – consider how Republican attorney Catharine Baker beat Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a union darling, by 3.2 points in last November’s low-turnout election in the 16th Assembly District, despite a 7-point Democratic registration advantage.

And Glazer can almost certainly count on more support from his own deep-pocketed independent spenders, most notable the Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC and southern California Republican-turned-independent businessman Bill Bloomfield.

If 7th District residents think they’ve been inundated with mail and calls so far, they ain’t seen nothing yet.


SD7: IE money for Republican who dropped out

The independent spending that’s flooding the 7th State Senate District’s special election has taken an odd turn, as a committee known for backing Asian American Democrats spends on behalf of a white Republican who dropped out of the contest weeks ago.

The Asian American Small Business PAC has reported spending $46,380 on research, polling and mailing on behalf of Michaela Hertle. And that’s bad news for the candidate whom Hertle endorsed: Democrat Steve Glazer.

Steve Glazer“It’s gutter politics,” Glazer charged Monday. “There’s no Asian-American in the race, and the Republican has withdrawn and endorsed me. It’s clearly an attempt to confuse the voters and smear me.”

Glazer, Orinda’s mayor and a former campaign advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, has set about courting Republican votes, as he’s more centrist than the contest’s other two prominent Democrats – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo.

But when Hertle dropped out of the race and endorsed Glazer Feb. 2, it already was too late to remove her name from the ballots. By spending money to tout her now, the PAC effectively is sapping votes from Glazer.

The mailer already is hitting registered Republicans’ mailboxes across the district. On the front, beside a photo of Hertle apparently cribbed from her Twitter profile, it asks, “Why settle for less? Let’s elect a real Republican to stand up for us in the State Senate.” On the back, it says the community “needs a real reformer in the State Senate who can break the partisan gridlock and produce results for us.”

Click to enlarge:
Hertle flier front

Hertle flier back

“Unlike the other candidates, Michaela Hertle is an independent leader who owes no favors to the special interests paralyzing our state government. We can trust Michaela to fight for reform and for us,” the flier says, praising her as fiscally conservative and a government reformer.

Bill Wong, the PAC’s political director, insisted this truly is a pro-Hertle effort and not an attempt to sap votes from Glazer to benefit Bonilla or Buchanan.

“Michaela is still on the ballot and there’s an option for people to vote for her,” Wong said, noting about 41 percent of the district’s voters are Republicans or independents. “She thought she couldn’t raise enough money to run a legitimate campaign, so we figured we’d throw in this money and see how it goes.”

The PAC mostly gives money to Asian American Democrats – it gave only to Democrats in the 2013-2014 cycle, and all but one of the 17 were Asian American. But Wong said it has given to a few Republicans in the past, including Michelle Steele and Alan Nakanishi for the Board of Equalization in 2010, so supporting Hertle isn’t unprecedented.

She’s the candidate most aligned with the PAC’s ideals, he insisted: “Everyone else is kind of a career politician.”

Who’s putting up the money remains an open question.

Despite the PAC’s name, it gets most of its money from big companies and unions. Its biggest contributors in 2013-14 were Comcast Corp. ($46,800); International Union of Operating Engineers, Stationary Engineers Local 39 ($40,000); California State Council of Service Employees ($30,000); AT&T ($27,286); Professional Engineers in California Government ($20,000); Eli Lilly & Co. ($15,000); and the State Building and Construction Trades Council ($15,000).

The PAC had $55,064 cash on hand as of Dec. 31, so either it has mostly cleaned out its coffers with this spending, or it has received more contributions since the start of the year. Any such new contributions won’t have to be reported until well after this March 17 special primary election.

Either way, because it already had more money banked than it spent on this election, its mailer need only identify the PAC and not any new major donors.

Among those listed as officers on the PAC’s filings are California political and public affairs consultants James Santa Maria and Lucy McCoy; also listed is Jadine Nielsen, a longtime Democratic political operative, former Democratic National Committeewoman and former Los Angeles deputy mayor now living in Hawaii. None of them returned phone calls Monday.

Glazer says he’s pretty sure he knows who’s funding this “pro-Hertle” effort.

“It’s all being orchestrated by the BART unions and friends,” he said. “This is a front group for nefarious interests that don’t want to be known.”

It’s no secret the unions hate him. Glazer burned his bridges with labor first by consulting with JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, to support centrist Democrats like himself beat labor-backed Democrats in 2012’s elections. More recently, he crusaded for legislation to ban transit-worker strikes like the ones that stilled BART in 2013.

Labor unions at the start of this month created Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015. In the past week, that committee has received $35,000 from the California Teachers Association, $25,000 from the California Federation of Teachers, $25,000 from the Professional Engineers in California Government, and $25,000 from the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO – a total of $110,000. And it has spent almost $64,400 so far on anti-Glazer research, polling, mailing and a website, KnowGlazer.com.


SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

Independent expenditure money continues to rain down upon the 7th State Senate District’s special election’s Democrat-on-Democrat showdown.

Competing to succeed Mark DeSaulnier (now a congressman) are Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin.

Since my last report, in which I detailed the big independent spending that the California Dental Association has done on Bonilla’s behalf, other Bonilla IE benefactors have materialized as well. The California Professional Firefighters IE PAC has spent about $118,000 for mailers, postage, data and polling since last Friday, Feb. 13, while the California Medical Association IE PAC has spent about $83,400 on mailers.

But weighing in against Bonilla and Buchanan is JOBSPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce political action committee, which on Tuesday reported spending about $21,000 on research and mailers. Glazer was a consultant for JOBSPAC back in 2012 – one of the ways in which he has burned his bridges to much of the Democratic Party and the unions that support it.

And Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman Bill Bloomfield – a patron of centrist Democrats who buck their party and labor – has spent about $75,000 more on Glazer’s behalf beyond the $104,000 I reported last week, bringing his total so far to almost $180,000.

Meanwhile, among the more significant new endorsements, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the California Nurses Association and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges endorsed Bonilla this week; former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin endorsed Buchanan; and former state Controller Steve Westly and former state Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti endorsed Glazer.

The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.


SD7: This week’s money and endorsements

Some serious independent-expenditure money is starting to drop in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

The California Dental Association’s Independent Expenditure PAC since Feb. 4 has spent at least $287,126 on behalf of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s campaign for mailers, consulting and other purposes.

“The California Dental Association Political Action Committee puts a great deal of consideration into supporting candidates who are interested in solving the challenges experienced by the dental profession and becoming well-informed about the many complex issues involved in meeting the oral health care needs of their constituents and all Californians,” CDA spokeswoman Alicia Malaby explained in an email Friday.

Bonilla’s campaign said it couldn’t comment on independent spending.

Bill Bloomfield, a Republican-turned-independent millionaire Southern California businessman, since Feb. 5 has spent at least $104,311 to support Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, who fits Bloomfield’s penchant for centrist Democrats willing to buck their own party and labor unions on many issues.

Glazer mailerBloomfield’s money has bought, among other things, a mailer that’s already hitting the 7th district’s households which touts Glazer as “a proven maverick who took on the government unions to stop the BART strike and to promote public school reform.” (No, Glazer didn’t stop the BART strike, but he did vociferously advocate a ban on transit-worker strikes.)

This dovetails neatly with Glazer picking up the endorsement last week of Michaela Hertle, the only Republican who filed to run in this race. Hertle said she’s dropping out and backing Glazer, though it’s too late to remove her name from ballots.

Bloomfield spent millions on various California races last year, including strong IE support for Marshall Tuck, who unsuccessfully took on incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Given his largess in other races, it’s hard to believe this will be the only spending he does on Glazer’s behalf.

Glazer and Bonilla, D-Concord, face former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; and Democratic former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin in this election. The special primary is scheduled for March 17; if nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote that day, the special general election will be held May 19.

Meanwhile, in this week’s endorsements:

BonillaMt. Diablo Education Association (2/9); former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir (2/10); Public Employees Union Local 1 (2/11); California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (2/11); Teamsters Joint Council 7 plus five locals (2/13)

Buchanan San Ramon Valley Education Association (2/10); The Independent (2/12)

Glazer – former Contra Costa County Sheriff and state Sen. Dick Rainey, R-Walnut Creek (2/12); former state Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles (2/12); former Rep. Bill Baker, R-Walnut Creek (2/12); former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed (2/13)

Torlakson’s backing of Bonilla is the first endorsement any statewide official has made in this race. Glazer’s endorsements continue with his theme of romancing voters from the center to the right of the political spectrum.

Bonilla and Buchanan will meet with the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus members and other district residents from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 2 in the Oak View Room at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway; the event is open to the public.

Buchanan is holding volunteer “Wine and Sign parties” postcard-signing parties at 6 p.m. every Wednesday night from now through the primary in her campaign headquarters at 2678 Bishop Dr., Ste. 110 in San Ramon; RSVP to alexvuskovic@joanbuchanan.com.


SD7: Tom Torlakson endorses Susan Bonilla

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson endorsed Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla on Wednesday in the East Bay’s 7th State Senate District special election.

Torlakson is the state’s top education official, and used to hold the very same senate seat that Bonilla, D-Concord, now seeks. He’s the first statewide elected official to weigh in on this race, in which the special primary is scheduled for March 17 and the special general for May 19.

“As a classroom teacher and state assemblywoman, Susan Bonilla has dedicated her life to California’s children and our public schools,” Torlakson said. “She has been an important and irreplaceable voice for improving academic standards, putting more students on the path to college, and ensuring every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

Bonilla called Torlakson “a consistent and dedicated champion for public education. Our students and our state have benefited tremendously from his leadership and I’m honored to have his support.”

Vying with Bonilla in this election are former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo; Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer; and former Concord City Council candidate Terry Kremin, all Democrats. Republican Michaela Hertle dropped out and endorsed Glazer, but her name remains on the ballot.

Asked if he had any comment on Torlakson’s endorsement, Glazer replied, “This is a Buchanan problem, not mine.”

Glazer has burned bridges to much of his own party and the labor unions that support it, first in 2012 by working as a political strategist for the California Chamber of Commerce’s JobsPAC – which backed moderate Democrats over more liberal, labor-friendly ones – and again in 2013 by urging a ban on transit-worker strikes.