MUCH DEPENDS ON YET-TO-BE FORMED PANEL'S RECOMMENDATIONS ON REDISTRICTING
By Steven Tavares
The 18th Assembly district covers San Leandro, Hayward, Dublin and parts of Castro Valley and Pleasanton. Those areas will obviously still exist, but the seat currently held by Mary Hayashi may not after the Citizens Redistricting Commission is finished redrawing the landscape of the California Legislature.
Advocates of taking the Legislature's power of gerrymandering away and giving it to the people will point to the crazy-quilt borders of 18th district as evidence of the gridlock in Sacramento and redistricting meant to preserve the status quo. For instance, despite widespread dissatisfaction with the Legislature and constant bipartisan battles over its woeful state budget, not one seat has changed hands in either the Assembly or State Senate.
A seat from the 18th will likely look vastly different than it does today or even cease to exist. This dilemma has a few possible suitors for the seat waiting on the commission's finding to make a slew of political calculations.
By 2012, term limits will preclude Hayashi from running for her seat (presuming she beats her youthful Republican opponent Michael Havig this November.) Most say her political aspirations run further than the Assembly. She could have two options: wait until state Sen. Ellen Corbett terms out of office and run for her seat in 2014 (again, assuming Corbett wins in November) or aim higher. Hayashi is one of many said to have interest in snapping up Rep. Pete Stark's spot in Congress once his time in Washington ends. She has told insiders one of her goals is to become the first Korean-American member of Congress, but her political moves are often times difficult to assess.
Earlier this year she set off a mini-commotion among local politicos when she moved from Castro Valley to Stonebrae in the Hayward Hills. Some believed she was making a calculated move for the future. Eyebrows were then raised widely when rumors began swirling Hayashi's new home was not within the boundaries of the 18th making her candidacy this year ineligible for the ballot. It turns out her Stonebrae home sits just a few homes within the district. Others contend Hayashi recent move is designed to give her more options later. Sources say she is renting her previous home in the Palomares Hill development in Castro Valley to an aide. In addition, they believe Hayashi is renting the home for a below-market rate--a possibly severe ethics violation, if proven.
What happens to the 18th in 2012 may depend on whether the strong likelihood the commission cobbles either Fremont or areas further east of Dublin and Pleasanton or even both scenarios to the existing district. Two possible Democratic candidates for the seat could be Hayward Councilmembers Bill Quirk and Olden Henson. Quirk, who is a Hayashi acolyte, said Tuesday he is definitely eyeing the seat, but is waiting on the commission's findings. For both Quirk and Henson or any other Democrat who enters the fray, the inclusion of the more voters from the slightly more conservative Tri-Valley area could be the deciding factor.
"If you add voters from Fremont to Hayward, San Leandro and Castro Valley, that's a solid Democratic seat," said Quirk. "But if you add voters from Dublin and Pleasanton, then you might have a Democratic tossup." He also adding he would not encroach on a seat held by new Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski in Fremont 20th district. No matter how the political redrawing of California falls in place, the political aspirations of many across the state will lie at the mercy of the 14-person commission.