EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Thursday, October 27, 2016

SD9 PREVIEW: An embarrassment of riches for East Bay progressives

Former East Bay Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson are vying for the Ninth State Senate District seat this November.
MEET THE CANDIDATES Many enjoy bagging on Oakland politics, but every two years the city and surrounding areas produce some of the best candidates in the East Bay. It’s no surprise that its race for the open Ninth State Senate District seat would be any different. Former Assemblymember NANCY SKINNER represented Berkeley to Richmond for six years before being termed out in 2014. Her progressive credentials are unquestioned. As a legislator she was a thorn in the side of corporations such as Chevron and Amazon and in her final years authored some of the most stringent gun control bills in the state… SANDRE SWANSON is also a former Assemblymember who represented roughly the other half of the sprawling senate district. He also served six years before being termed out in 2012. Afterward, he served as Oakland’s deputy mayor under Jean Quan. His time in Sacramento included a focus on punishing sex traffickers and solving inequities in minority communities across the state.

WHAT’S THE BEEF? Both are unabashedly progressive, make no mistake about it. If elected, either will immediately become one of the most progressive members of the 40-person state Senate. But that’s not an issue in this race that includes areas from Richmond to Oakland, and including Berkeley, Alameda and San Leandro. Without a doubt, Skinner and Swanson’s ideology dovetails nicely with the district. The issue, however, has been which candidates leans the most unwavering to the left? At least, that’s the argument Swanson has been trying to make for more than the last year. It led to Skinner describing herself as an “operational progressive,” essentially, a pragmatist. Later she characterized herself as a “progressive who gets things done.” It remains to be seen whether Swanson’s argument will fly with voters in November, because it didn’t in June when he lost to Skinner by nearly 18 points. Swanson has continued to focus his stump speech on the infamous removal from his Assembly committee chairmanship during the contentious 2009 budget battles. Swanson refused to budge from the Assembly speaker’s demand to vote for a budget laden with deep cuts to services, children and the poor. Skinner voted for the budget bill. According to Swanson, this act shows he will stand up for progressive principles in the state Senate, no matter what. The upshot, he says, is that festering problems like the loss of redevelopment funds have been a large factor in the housing crisis the region is facing today. In the end, the decision for voters appears to be a choice of Skinner, a progressive who will attempt to move the wheels of government and possibly build coalitions with moderate Democrats, or Swanson, someone who flies the flag of progressives at all times.

THE NUMBERS
2016 JUNE PRIMARY.........................VOTES....PCT
Nancy Skinner (D)........................115102   48.0%
Sandre Swanson (D)........................73349   30.6%
Katherine Welch (D).......................31627   13.2%
Rich Kinney (R)...........................19967    8.3%

2012 GENERAL ELECTION.....................VOTES....PCT
Loni Hancock (D).........................231484   85.7%
Mary McIlroy (PF).........................38512   14.3%

MONEYBALL
         ----JULY-SEPT 24----     ----2016----
SD9           IN      OUT         IN     OUT       CASH
SKINNER  241,606  170,822    545,527 683,081 $  988,812
SWANSON*  70,000  111,518    368,888 496,127 $    8,404
*TOTAL COVERS Sept. 25-Oct.22.

OUTLOOK Swanson supporter's main talking point for November is the electorate will be far different in November than in June when Skinner steamrolled Swanson and the rest of the field. Sure, turnout will be far greater on Nov. 8, but the argument probably doesn’t hold water in this race. This is a race between two progressives in one of the bluest regions in the country. Think about it: Primary voters typically make up each party’s base. In this case, the left’s base in the Ninth District overwhelmingly chose Skinner and Swanson has done little to attract voters who backed the moderate Democrat Katherine Welch in the primary or Republican Rich Kinney, who incidentally later endorsed Swanson. Then there’s the large fundraising advantage Skinner has owned since the beginning of the race. It was so awesome that it gave Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan second thoughts about running. She later dropped out a year ago. In addition, Skinner has virtually cruised along the whole race without a hitch, although, some in Oakland are voicing displeasure over Skinner accepting campaign contributions from the Oakland Police Officers Association. Being the choice of Oakland cops is not exactly a popular endorsement these days. Then again, Swanson’s campaign hasn’t really made much of that small uproar, either. In the end, its quite possible the notion held by many that both candidates are more than desirable for the district is pigeon-holing Swanson. If both of them are good, then why should voters back the guy trailing by 18 points in the primary? Swanson articulating why they should vote for him, but all things equal, he also never told voters why they shouldn’t vote for Skinner.

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