Assembly Election Coverage

voteI’ll be blogging results of the Wieckowski-Yee Assembly race tonight, starting at 8 p.m. when the absentee ballot results are announced.

I have no clue  who’s going to win, but I’m glad it’s about to be over. Yesterday evening, Ishan Shah and some of his gal pals were holding Yee signs outside the Argus headquarters urging motorists to honk (Yee’s campaign office is just down the street from us). It made it hard to work, especially since one of the gals had a few choice words for a non-honker. Also, I could hear Ishan outside saying something about being brown. Who knew?

But this has been an interesting race, and I wish I had written more about it. There is no shortage of storylines:

1) The candidates: Yee and Wieckowski — both good men — are two very different people, and I’m not sure they’re going to be ready to kiss and make up right after the votes are counted.

2) The predecessors: John Dutra wasn’t able to handpick his replacement to the State Assembly. Labor backed Torrico and Dutra had to deal with it. This time around, Dutra helped convince Yee to run, potentially keeping Torrico from getting his man into office.

3) The special interests: Yee is the choice of the insurance and medical industries. Wieckowski is the choice of the trial lawyers and the pensionistas.

4) The future of Fremont’s Democratic Party establishment: This has gotten the least play — probably because only 100 people in town care about inside baseball politics — but Yee-Wieckowski is a big race for the party. Party activists want Fremont, with its strong Democratic majority, to produce staunchly progressive lawmakers — like those in Oakland and Berkeley — who can safely rely on the party’s backing and support.

But the party has struggled to prove that it can lead progressives to victory down here. In 2008, the party backed Trisha Tahmasbi only to lose to Vinnie Bacon and Sue Chan, who had the backing of that former Democrat John Dutra. The same thing happened a year earlier in Newark where Dutra-backed Al Huezo beat the Torrico/Labor/Democrat backed Sharlene Saria-Mansfield.

The Yee-Wieckowski race will help us know whether the Tri-Cities is slowly becoming a liberal bastion that the Democratic Party can control or whether it’s still a moderately liberal place, where ethnic identity trumps party affiliation.

Yee in many ways is the poster child of the latter vision of Fremont politics. He’s moderate, and mainly because of his army service, he’s a hero to many people around here, especially those of Chinese descent.

If the Democrats can get Wieckowski elected over Yee, they’re sending a strong message to local politicians that the way to win office in the Tri-Cities is through the Democratic establishment. In essence, the party would be saying, “Forget Dutra, we’re the biggest game in town; don’t mess with us.”

But if Yee wins — in a Democratic primary, no less — the party is going to have to scale back its ambitions and consider embracing candidates who can lead it to victory even if they don’t strictly adhere to the party’s platform.

Matt Artz

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