By Christopher Cadelago
In the fourth of five parts, veteran political analyst Tony Quinn offers his take on key legislative races, as Republicans seek to cut into Democrats' supermajority status this year. Here's a look at the most interesting state Senate contests in Northern California.
Democrat Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa is not seeking another term, giving an opening to a host of up-and-comers from this district that spans the Northern California coastline. But education consultant Chris Lehman suspended his campaign and threw his support to Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire. Novato City Councilman Eric Lucan also dropped out and endorsed McGuire. The only other candidate is Republican Lawrence Wiesner, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
Evans decided to retire, although she could have run for another term. Initially four Democrats planned to run to replace her, but three dropped out, leaving McGuire virtually unopposed. He is a former mayor of Healdsburg, where his family has farmed grapes for a century. Wiesner will provide only token opposition in November in this overwhelmingly Democratic district.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento is leaving due to term limits. Democratic Assembly members Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan are running to succeed him. Steinberg has already given his early blessing to Dickinson.
This safe Democratic district that takes in the city of Sacramento will almost certainly see a same-party runoff in November between Dickinson and Pan. Dickinson is a former county supervisor who had run two previously unsuccessful campaigns for the Assembly. He now represents the Assembly district covering the northern half of the Senate district. Pan was elected to a suburban Assembly district in 2010 but was forced to move into the vacant district covering Southern Sacramento County to run for re-election in 2012. This will be a big-money race, with Dickinson looking for labor support and Pan, a pediatrician, looking for support from medical groups. This district is just under 50 percent Democratic in registration, so how the non-Democrats break in November will probably decide the winner of this contest.
Democrat Ellen Corbett of Hayward is running for Congress. Two well-known current and former lawmakers may seek to take her place in the Senate. They are former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who lost a supervisorial bid in Alameda County after being convicted of shoplifting, and Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont. Democrat Roman Reed of the Fremont Planning Commission and Republican insurance agent Peter Kuo also may run.
This is such a heavily Democratic district that a same-party runoff in November is all but assured. Wieckowski would seem to have the edge due to Hayashi's legal problems that cost her a seat on the Alameda Board of Supervisors. Reed is a member of the Fremont Planning Commission, but it will be hard for him to make the runoff against two well-known legislators.
Republican Anthony Cannella of Ceres represents a Democratic district and will try to retain it. Democrat Thomas Hallinan, the city attorney of Patterson, is the first challenger to get into the race.
Cannella was elected to the heavily Democratic district in 2010, in part because he was the son of a former Democratic assemblyman and his opponent was from Monterey County while he was from the Central Valley where most of the population lives. Given the nature of his district, he has played the bipartisan card while in Sacramento. He is probably most vulnerable to a strong Democratic landside with Gov. Jerry Brown at the head of the ticket. But Central Valley voters still know how to split their votes, and Senate Democrats will need to put lots of money behind Hallinan to make him credible.
Republican Andy Vidak of Hanford scored a surprise win in a special election after Democratic state Sen. Michael Rubio left to take a job with Chevron. Vidak's early opponents are Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle and Luis Chavez, a school board trustee at Fresno Unified. Both are Democrats.
Vidak's special election win was not quite the shock some people have described it as. He had run a very close race for Congress in the overlapping congressional district in 2010, and that district now has a Republican incumbent. Chavez and Valle will fight to see who gets into the runoff. Chavez has a good base in voter-rich Fresno and Valle comes from Vidak's home county. The district is 53 percent Latino by voter registration, and President Barack Obama carried it by 18 points. Vidak will need some Latino votes to win in November. Like Cannella, his greatest threat is a straight-ticket Latino vote for all Democratic candidates.
See something amiss or just missing? Contact Christopher Cadelago at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 326-5538.