The next person to represent District 1 on the influential Alameda County Board of Supervisors will be a current elected official from either Fremont or Dublin. The key question is whether replacing the district's supervisor will change the dynamics of the board, primarily when it comes to public safety and the board's oversight of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.
The four-person field was set last week, although the list of candidates had solidified months ago. The wide-open field includes District 10 State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, with Dublin Mayor David Haubert, and Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez.
At two early forums, audience members showed great interest in the candidates' opinion of Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, and whether they would advocate, for example, using the board's power of the purse as a means of greater oversight, or even support an effort to make the sheriff's office an appointed position.
When it comes to Ahern and a number of allegations of misconduct by his deputies, along with the deaths of prisoners at the Santa Rita Jail, the current Board of Supervisors is typically split, 3-2, slightly in favor of oversight. Ahern's biggest supporters on the board are Haggerty and Supervisor Nate Miley. The next supervisor from District 1 could broaden the current critical eye on Ahern or flip it to a more hands-off approach when it comes to the elected sheriff.
District 1 is the board's only open seat, but not the only race for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors next March. Incumbents Miley in District 3 and Supervisor Keith Carson in District 5 also have challengers. Miley, who faced a hard-fought and expensive re-election in 2016 against former Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker, will face Esther Goolsby, a community activist with the East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy (EBASE). Carson, the long-time Berkeley and North Oakland county supervisor, is facing an upstart campaign from Albany Councilmember Nick Pilch.
Still, the District 1 race will be Alameda County's marquee race in the March primary elections. It features a seat on the Board of Supervisors not contested since 1996, when Scott Haggerty — a Republican at the time — defeated a large field of candidates to replace then-long-time Supervisor Ed Campbell. Until this upcoming primary, that was the last time the District 1 office has even registered a challenger. Haggerty announced he would not seek re-election to his seat last summer.
In addition, to Fremont and Dublin, District 1 also includes Livermore and Sunol.
Incumbency Scares Away Most Legislative Challengers
The 12-year state legislative cycle has rendered most assembly and state senate races as cakewalks for incumbents since new term limits were enacted in 2012. Of the eight legislative seats in Alameda County, just one race is fully contested, while another could hold some drama next year. Otherwise, incumbents will again hold a distinct advantage, at least, until 2024.
In Senate District 9, state Sen. Nancy Skinner capped a second straight year of impressive legislative wins this year by moving the NCAA closer to paying student-athletes, a long vexing issue in the sport, with passage of her "Fair Pay to Play Act." Apparently, residents in the Berkeley and Oakland state senate district are happy with her representation. Skinner's re-election will not be contested next year.
In Assembly District 18, Assemblymember Rob Bonta will face re-election against a familiar face, Alameda Republican Stephen Slauson. Bonta trounced Slauson in both the 2018 primary and general election. During the campaign, Slauson deployed a talking point used by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, publicly questioning whether Bonta is an American citizen.
In Assembly District 15, incumbent Buffy Wicks also will seek re-election for the first time. Her opponent last year, former Richmond Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, showed early interest in a rematch, but relented. In her place is Republican Jeanne Solnordal and Sara Brink, an independent.
In Assembly District 20, Hayward Democrat Bill Quirk, who was elected in 2012, is facing three challengers next March, including one from the left. Progressive Democrat Alexis Villalobos. Vipan Bajwa, who ran last year for the Union City Council also qualified for the primary ballot, as did Republican Son Nguyen.
Six to Challenge Eric Swalwell in March Primary
By now, Rep. Eric Swalwell's image on any cable news network over the past three years has greatly raised his profile in a mostly positive manner. But there is a flip-side to his ubiquity in the public eye. Six candidates will challenge his re-election in the 15th Congressional District next March.
They include three Democrats, two Republicans, and an independent. Democrats Samantha Campbell, Austin Intal, and Tuan Phan qualified for the Mar. 3 primary, as did Republican Alison Hayden.
The field also features a cast of characters, like Republican Peter Liu, who has advocated in the past for legalizing prostitution and pledging to turn Lake Merritt into a private water park; and Don Grundmann, an East Bay chiropractor who has often demonized the LGBT community. Both have run for various offices on several occasions.
Alameda County's two other members of Congress will face a decidedly smaller field of challengers. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee will face re-election for the twelfth time against Nikka Piterman, a Republican and software engineer.
Competition For Alameda County Board of Education
Two Alameda County Board of Education seats will be contested in March. Board Trustee Amber Childress is seeking re-election to the Alameda Area 2 seat that also includes a portion of Oakland. She is being challenged by special education teacher Angela Normand. Childress' surprise victory in 2016 against incumbent Marlon McWilson was one of the biggest upsets of the local election year.
The retirement of Hayward-area Trustee Fred Sims from the county board of education opens up a three-person race that includes two candidates with ties to the Hayward school board. Lisa Brunner, who served on the Hayward school board until she lost re-election last year, joins current Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso and educator Janevette Cole. Incumbents Ken Berrick and Eileen McDonald did not attract challengers. Their offices will not appear on the March ballot.
Thirty-one Alameda County Superior Court judges are up for re-election, but just one will appear on the ballot. The rest are uncontested. Three candidates will vie to replace Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carol Brosnahan, who is retiring from the bench after 40 years. Trial attorney Elena Condes, civil rights attorney Mark Fickes, and administrative law judge Lilla Szelenyi qualified for the ballot.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Elena Condes.