|Bryan Azevedo and Ed Hernandez face-off in the San Leandro City Council's District 2--the only contested race of three open seats this fall.|
In San Leandro, just four candidates filed for three seats this fall. But it gets worse. Two of the races involved termed out councilmembers--Jim Prola and Ursula Reed. Be it apathy in San Leandro or a sense the city is on a distinct upward trend, only Reed's District 2 seat is contested this election cycle. BRYAN AZEVEDO is a member of the San Leandro Recreation and Parks Commission, but his labor ties define him. Azevedo is a union steel worker. Unsurprisingly, his campaign finance reports are lardered with a great deal of union money. "If you support me, you're going to get a fighter," said Azevedo... During the race's rather late initial forum on Oct. 6, San Leandro planning commissioner ED HERNANDEZ exclaimed. "It's good time to be a San Leandran." In contrast to his opponent, Hernandez draws support from San Leandro's business community. These ties are one reason why most the political endorsements have gone to Azevedo... In the uncontested races, District 4 Councilmember BENNY LEE will return for another four years. As the city's first Asian American councilmember, he thrived in his first term. He also proved to be a consistent and strong advocate for San Leandro's growing Asian American community. Sure, there was that People's Republic of China flag flap, but his measured approach to deliberations seemed to bring balance to the council... PETE BALLEW is a retired San Leandro Police lieutenant. After nobody else filed to run for Prola's termed out seat, Ballew automatically won the seat. The city's public safety officers have funded his campaign, along with more than a hint of union support. Ballew is a bit of an unknown going forward with the next council...In addition, like Oakland and Berkeley, San Leandro uses ranked-choice voting, but since none of the three races have more than two candidates, it's not a factor this election cycle.
WHAT'S THE BEEF? Overall, there's not many differences between Azevedo and Hernandez, according to their campaign platforms. What distinguishes them, though, is their styles and the groups supporting their respective campaigns. Both have voiced strong support for public safety. Azevedo, however, said he supported the formation of an independent citizen's police commission. "I'm going to hold them accountable," Azevedo said of the San Leandro Police, "and praise them when they succeed." They also agree housing and rising rents are the city's most pressing challenges. Ditto with medical cannabis dispensaries, which will soon total three in San Leandro. "Three is fair," said Hernandez, although he added, "I'll work with police to keep kids away from cannabis." Azevedo believes more competition among the dispensaries will eventually lower the price for ailing customers. However, the most glaring difference between the candidates is superficial. Azevedo's first appearance in a forum was a disaster. He appeared unprepared and his thoughts without focus. Conversely, Hernandez was far more polished and expansive with his answers. In fact, the lack of candidate forums and, therefore, chances for Hernandez to illustrate this head-to-head advantage is a lost opportunity for him.
2012 GENERAL ELECTION.....................VOTES....PCT
Ursula Reed...............................10707 42.2%
Morgan Mack-Rose.......................... 9649 38.0%
Dan Dillman............................... 4809 19.0%
Benny Lee.................................10244 44.2%
Chris Crow................................ 5671 24.4%
Darlene Daevu............................. 4633 20.0%
Justin Hutchison.......................... 2426 10.5%
Jim Prola.................................12841 54.4%
Hermy Almonte.............................10517 44.5%
----JULY-SEPT 24---- ----2016----
DIST 2 IN OUT IN OUT CASH
AZEVEDO* 19,625 934 21,125 934 $ 29,290
HERNANDEZ 4,065 11,446 19,604 22,024 $ 2,679
DIST 4 IN OUT IN OUT CASH
LEE 500 2,280 13,631 5,968 $ 40,030
DIST 6 IN OUT IN OUT CASH
BALLEW* 27,105 5,097 37,105 5.097 $ 38,707
*through June 30.
OUTLOOK Few in San Leandro appear to have qualms with the path the city has taken in recent years. Punctuated by the recent unveiling of the "Truth is Beauty" statue near the San Leandro BART station, the city is feeling good about itself. It parlayed its renowned downtown fiber-optics loop into attracting high-tech industrial companies and others businesses to town. Social issues are still percolating under the surface and the City Council dropped the ball on better protecting worried renters. But the San Leandro City Council has become more progressive in the past two years and the tipping point may have been first-term Councilmember Lee Thomas's surprising moves to the left on many issues. He's San Leandro's David Souter in some ways after running as a moderate, he's surprised many, especially with his flip-flop in favor of dispensaries. What this election represents, though, is a referendum on whether the current progressive shift makes it through to 2017. Losing Prola, the council's most progressive member, to term limits and replacing him with Ballew will likely flip that seat. Therefore, Azevedo represents the only chance for maintaining the status quo. In effect, progressives would switch District 6 for District 2, if Azevedo succeeds. And despite Azevedo's clear inexperience as a candidate, there's a reason why labor and the Democratic Party is solidly behind his campaign. They simply don't trust Hernandez--for whatever reason--whether its personal or due to the circle of business interests he runs with. Further down the road, rumors are abound that Lee is interested in challenging Mayor Pauline Cutter in 2018. Without having to wage on re-election campaign, Lee already has $40,000 head start in cash on hand. With San Leandro's changing demographics and a successful first four years in office, Lee could be a force.