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Why the Race to Represent Eastern Alameda County is the Most Important Local Election

It's a dead heat in the contest to replace Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

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Hernandez and Haubert share a bit of ignominy. Both voted against raising the rainbow LGBT Pride flag over Dublin City Hall last year. The decision became a high-profile local news story before Hernandez and Haubert later changed their stance. Haubert showed up at the subsequent council meeting sporting a rainbow sash across his chest to highlight his support for the LGBT cause.

Overall, Hernandez has campaigned on maintaining and improving social services in the county. She often ranks fighting homeless as her top priority. With homeless encampments now sprouting up in every corner of Alameda County, she believes individual cities should have leeway to find their own solutions. Determining a location for a homeless navigation center in Fremont was a hot-button issue that divided the community between progressives and NIMBYs.

Homelessness and climate change are Wieckowski's top priorities as supervisor. Neither issue is surprising since he wrote the law that allows residents greater latitude in building Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as granny flats, on their properties. Wieckowski said such secondary housing units are one tool for increasing the region's housing stock. "We can build more housing because it's affordable by design," he told the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee last month. Wieckowski's legislation removes impact fees on ADUs that can run from $5,000 up to $60,000.

It's unclear, however, how receptive District 1's primarily suburban voters are to Wieckowski's vision for housing construction. His opponents have each rung the bell for local control of zoning, taking care to paint Sacramento in a negative light. Such rhetoric has often forced Wieckowski into a defensive mode. When the dissolution of local redevelopment agencies was mentioned in the context of the state's recent push for cities to relinquish control of approving new housing, Wieckowski said the moves were made because too many cities were not doing their share in adding to the housing supply. At a number of public appearances, Wieckowski's stance has been met cooly by audience members, many of whom had deep concerns about crushing traffic and fears that additional housing would only make the situation worse.

Wieckowski also has long been known for his environmentalist activism. His most notable legislative proposal, a potentially consequential bill related to fracking, was ultimately watered down by the powerful oil and gas industry, and eventually died. As a supervisor, Wieckowski said he will bolster the resiliency of the bay. "How do we spend money that benefits the entire bay?" he asked. "We're challenged by sea-level rise. "How do we build sea walls and saltwater ponds and marshes?"

The intermittent presence in the race of Dublin Mayor David Haubert, a skillful speaker, has proven problematic for Hernandez since they are likely to split the Tri-Valley vote. "I know what it takes to get things done," he said. "I'm the only candidate up here who has mayoral and school boardmember experience, and the only candidate broadly supported by members of the Democratic and Republican Party." But Haubert's registration as "No Party Preference" has hindered him in this race. Since the Democratic Party and its large number of affiliated groups don't invite non-Democrats to their forums and public endorsement meetings, Haubert is often missing from events involving his competitors.

Haubert's few performances with the entire field of candidate have tended to change the entire focus of the debate onto Wieckowski, given the mayor's repeated attempts to paint him as the type of Sacramento insider who has moved in the past to take local control from Tri-Valley and Fremont voters. "I absolutely oppose any attack on local control," Haubert declared at a forum in Pleasanton on the question of Senate Bill 50, the now-defunct legislation that would have fostered more housing density around transportation centers. "As county supervisor, I would fight hard to preserve local control." Haubert has some standing on the issue. Despite the perception that the Tri-Valley opposes housing density, during his time on the city council Dublin has done its part in approving large housing developments near its BART stations.

Bacon, an affable Fremont politician whose prior campaigns included local TV commercials that included his dog barking "Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!" with Bacon doing the voiceover. In this contest, he may have a leg-up on his opponents because he was first to enter the race back in February 2019. He did so with the assumption he would be challenging Haggerty's re-election. Then in May, Haggerty announced his retirement from the board. His decision clinched one of Alameda County's great electoral oddities. In 24 years on the Board of Supervisors, Haggerty has never once faced a challenger for his seat. His inexperience on the campaign trail and propensity for colorful quotes were seen as possible weaknesses that Bacon, a two-term councilmember known for his campaign ground game and willingness to go negative against an opponent, could easily exploit.

If you drive through the leafy neighborhoods of Fremont, it's hard to miss Bacon's yard signs. What they lack in graphic design is made up with a potentially potent message: Vinnie Bacon "Your clean money candidate." It's a moniker Bacon has proudly carried throughout his political career to combat the power of developer's money pouring into Fremont's recent elections. Demonizing developers has proven to be a winning strategy in Fremont, where growing traffic woes and severely overcrowded schools have long worn on residents. Bacon believes that voters in the Tri-Valley share similar concerns.

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