Via Contra Costa Times:
Upcoming elections for the state Legislature will test new voter-approved open primaries and independently drawn districts. New boundaries mean incumbents will run in unfamiliar territory. And the primary rules require the two top finishers from June to face each other in the general election, even if they're from the same party.
Of nine East Bay Senate and Assembly races, three are not competitive. Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and state Sens. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, should win easily.
Two Assembly candidates we supported in June enjoy our backing for November: Suisun City Councilman Mike Hudson, a Republican, demonstrated far greater knowledge than Oakley Councilman Jim Frazier, a Democrat. And Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk has proved a leader, while fellow Democrat Jennifer Ong lacks political experience.
In the other four races, we endorse:
Senate District 7 -- Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: We have disagreed with DeSaulnier on key issues, including obstacles for cities seeking bankruptcy court relief and a misguided pension bill he first backed that would have increased spiking in Contra Costa County.
However, on the latter, he heard our concerns and initiated important changes to the bill. He also was one of three key Democratic senators who bucked party leadership by opposing high-speed rail.
Previously, he now admits, he too quickly followed
leadership rather than acting independently. We hope he will demonstrate the independence we have expected.
His opponent, Republican attorney Mark Meuser, an interesting and articulate newcomer, speaks with the certainty of a novice. We encourage him to run first for local office to better understand the realities of government service.
Assembly District 16 -- Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: While we opposed Buchanan's first Assembly bid four years ago, she has proved to be a hard worker who listens to different perspectives.
She, like DeSaulnier, first backed the misguided pension bill, but reversed when she learned details. She was a hard-core defender of public-salary secrecy, but her position evolved when she saw why disclosure was needed.
Her opponent, Al Phillips, touts Republican Party talking points, but has no political experience or mastery of policy issues.
Assembly District 18 -- Rob Bonta, D-Alameda: The candidates, both Democrats, struggle to articulate their policy differences.
Bonta, an Alameda city councilman, demonstrates slightly more independent thought than Abel Guillen, a Peralta Community College District trustee. He speaks more forcefully for pension reform and about the state's misguided high-speed rail plan.
Guillen was part of a Peralta board that mismanaged that district and allowed Elihu Harris, an ethically challenged chancellor, to keep his job far too long. Guillen says he was an agent for change; we didn't see it. We're stunned to now see Harris listed as a key campaign supporter.
Assembly District 25 -- No endorsement. Incumbent Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, led efforts to block local governments from seeking bankruptcy protection. After agreeing to a compromise, he immediately pushed for more obstacles. It was intellectually dishonest and demonstrated an inability to keep a promise.
Opponent ArLyne Diamond lost her license to practice psychology after borrowing $30,000 from a patient's mother in 1982. Ten years later, the state Board of Psychology denied reinstatement after she showed no remorse.
See video of our Editorial Board meetings with state Legislature candidates at www.contracostatimes.com/opinion