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