By Robert T. Klein
LDC Youth Outreach Coordinator 2003-2005
14 AD Elected Delegate, DSCC UC Berkeley Student

This year’s June primary was one of the most exciting Democratic Party races in recent memory.  Despite record-low turnout, every crucial Bay Area race was decided in favor of an experienced, progressive Democrat. With our help, they will lead our state and our country to a landslide victory this November.

For Lamorinda, AD 14 was the race to watch. A little background: I am proud to have been one of Councilman Thurmond’s early supporters. Tony is a real hero to me, and he ran a solid race. He received the endorsements of every newspaper in the district, but given the role of mail-in ballots and unprecedented low turnout, they came too late to make much of a difference. But I sincerely thank him for running, as well as all of you that worked to help get him elected. I hope we’ll be seeing more of Tony Thurmond in the future.

Our next Assemblywoman, Nancy Skinner received over 51% of the vote, a truly remarkable feat in a four-way race. As anyone who has met her can attest, she is an incredibly sharp woman with a real grasp on the issues facing California. In particular, she has years of experience on environmental issues that are close to the hearts of East Bay voters. Once again, our district will have another true progressive representing us in Sacramento. I am sure Nancy Skinner will make all of us proud here in the 14th AD.

West of the hills, our current Assemblywoman Loni Hancock won the political fight of a lifetime, and by a very solid margin. She will be taking over the seat formerly held by Senate Speaker Pro Tem Don Perata, representing a district that runs from Oakland to West County. I will miss having Loni as our voice in Sacramento. But what’s even more important is that she will serve in the capitol for eight more years, fighting for Clean Money (public financing of elections) and single-payer healthcare. Thanks to her tireless efforts, I think that when her two terms are up, these crucial reforms will be put into practice. Our state will be a better place because of it.

Across the bay in San Francisco and Marin, one of the state’s most remarkable Democrats, Mark Leno, will also be moving on to the State Senate. Both Mark and Loni faced tough primaries against opponents who weren’t afraid to play dirty, and they were both targeted by “independent expendituresâ€? (special interest money, in this case) to try and prevent them from continuing their careers. They won anyway, with solid support from their constituents.

The Senator-to-be for nearly all of Contra Costa County, Mark DeSaulnier (SD 7) didn’t have opposition on the primary ballot. But that is only because he had such widespread support that his opponent backed out early, despite having amassed a sizable war chest. If these three new Bay Area Senatorial nominees are any indication of how things have turned out statewide, I can’t help but believe the next State Senate may yet be something for California residents to look forward to.

Speaking of the State Senate, our longtime Senator Tom Torlakson was termed-out of that house and will be serving a final term in the Assembly from the 11th AD. But this is in preparation for his long-awaited jump to statewide politics in 2010, when he will make a run for State Superintendent of Education. They say “once a teacher, always a teacher.â€? I already have my apple and pencil emblazoned campaign swag. Do you?

Next door in AD 15, Joan Buchanan easily fought off a corporate Democrat challenger, and will be facing a “moderateâ€? Republican (and we all know what that really means) in November. She’s going to need our help, and the timing of this race means that it has a crucial statewide importance beyond the mere fact that her district would shift from Republican to Democratic control.

Since redistricting occurs every decade, it means that if she were to be re-elected, Democrats will have one more district in their tally going into the upcoming redistricting season. For better or worse, and even if a reform of this process takes hold, for any redistricting plan to be considered legitimate it will need to essentially preserve the current statewide partisan breakdown (“currentâ€? as of 2011). In other words, the results of this election may shape the composition of the California legislature for the next decade or so. The same goes for Jerry McNerney (CD 11) in Congress.

And in the most exciting victory of the night, with the conclusion of the primary season Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for President. Democrats’ greatest challenge in recent elections has been our ability to effectively communicate our message to all Americans. Barack Obama is a candidate who can communicate not just to Democrats, but to independents and even many Republicans who are unenthused by McCain. It is up to Obama to get our message out to America. It is up to us as Democrats to make sure Americans get out to vote.

This November, we will all work hard for our Presidential nominee, but we must remember that he will need the support of Congress and the states to implement the change our country so desperately needs. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not worth working in California and that you have to drive to a “swing stateâ€? to make a difference. We must pound the pavement to elect Barack Obama, Joan Buchanan and Jerry McNerney in November. And that’s the most important thing any of us in the East Bay can do to bring about the change promised in the Presidential campaign.

This has been a great primary for Democrats. It has never been a better time to be part of what Governor Howard Dean once called the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.â€?

Robert T. Klein
LDC Youth Outreach Coordinator 2003-2005
14 AD Elected Delegate, DSCC
UC Berkeley Student