Democratic primary battles fierce in 10th SD, 28th AD

10th Senate District

The race for Liz Figueroa’s East Bay Senate seat is the only contest to
feature three former members of the state Assembly in one Democratic
primary. And, as expected, the race has been nasty and expensive, with
candidates and interest groups pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into
the campaign.

Former Assemblyman John Dutra has chipped in more than $500,000 of his own
money in his race against Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett and current
Assemblyman Johan Klehs. In all, Dutra has raised close to $1 million,
nearly double that of the other two candidates.

Dutra, who is being backed by business groups and the Moderate Democrats
PAC, is running to the right of both Corbett and Klehs, and is banking on
his two opponents splitting the district’s liberal vote. But Corbett and her
supporters have shown little interest in fighting with Klehs, a Sacramento
veteran who served 12 years in the Assembly (before term limits) and two
terms on the Board of Equalization.

Hoping to maximize her advantage as the only female in the race, Corbett’s
campaign and independent-expenditure allies are focused squarely on Dutra.

“Johan is kind of squeezed from both sides because there is no ideological-
or gender-based group he can appeal to,” said Larry Tramutola, an East Bay
democratic political consultant who is currently working for Oakland
mayoral hopeful Ignacio De La Fuente. “If he gets squeezed too much he’ll
finish third.”

“We’re going after Dutra,” said David Allgood, treasurer of the California
Alliance, a group of attorneys, nurses and environmental groups. In just the
past two weeks, the Alliance has spent more than $140,000 on mailers
accusing Dutra of killing environmental- and consumer-protection legislation
by purposefully being absent on voting days.

One mailer has Dutra’s face on a milk carton to illustrate him as the
“missing legislator.” Another shows him “taking a hike,” to symbolize him
walking out of committee and floor votes to help kill legislation without
having an actual no vote on his record.

The League of Conservation Voters also has dumped money into a pro-Corbett
IE campaign.

But Tramutola says its unclear which, if any of these messages, is breaking

“I’m not sure the average voter will make that distinction of where each
one aligns on political spectrum,” Tramutola said.

-Charla Baer

28th Assembly District

The fight for the wildly diverse 28th Assembly District is a clash of
contrasts–business versus labor, urban versus rural, affluent versus the
poor, and even labor versus labor. State legislative leaders redrew the
28th’s boundaries six years ago, turning what was once a GOP stronghold into
a fairly safe Democratic seat. That means the real political battle here is
in the primary, as dueling Democrats jockey for leverage.

Two Latina Democrats, both experienced mayors, are locked in a tight race to
succeed termed-out Assemblyman Simon Salinas.

Anna Caballero is mayor of the largest city in the district, Salinas, while
Ana Ventura Phares is the former mayor of Watsonville.

The 28th district is situated firmly between urban San Jose, the
conservative Central Valley and the liberal coast. It has undertones of
voters from all regions–part suburban, part resort. Farms dot the landscape.

“This is agricultural community. It is the largest industry in the 28th
district,” Phares notes.

A majority of the population is Latino and derive from a swath of the
agricultural Salinas Valley. The district also includes southern Santa Clara
County a suburban region of San Jose that is creeping into San Benito County
an area that was once totally agricultural.

Simon Salinas passed up a run against Republican State Sen. Jeff Denham and
is running for a seat on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.

Republican Peter Frusetta represented much of this district from 1994-2000,
where he consistently held off strong Democratic challenges until term
limits retired him in 2000.

But redistricting has made the seat attractive to Democrats, and the winner
of June’s Democratic primary will likely be the area’s new Assembly member.
Caballero has locked up most of the business support and Phares has most of
the labor backing. The California Chamber of Commerce, the Realtors,
insurance companies and the California Farm Bureau already have spent over
$300,000 in support of Caballero. The money was poured into IE committees
that weighed in with ads backing Caballero.

Although Phares has the support statewide labor councils, local labor groups
are not solidly behind her. It is not that they don’t like her, but
geographical and local concerns have helped to dictate their support.

UNITE Here Local 483, the local hotel-workers labor union, broke with most
labor groups and endorsed Caballero because they have a history of working
with her.

But Phares does have the support of the California Labor Federation and most
other labor groups.

-Nik Bonavich

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