The race for the newly redrawn 15th District, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, pits a moderate Dublin City Councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, Swalwell, against a liberal, seasoned Democratic Party loyalist who's been serving in Congress since 1973. The field is rounded out by a lesser-known candidate, Christopher Pareja, an Independent Party candidate with no previous public service experience.
Paul Mitchell, president of Redistricting Partners, a Sacramento consulting firm that has been tracking the realignment of California's political districts that resulted from voters' approval of Proposition 20 two years ago, says that it's campaigns such as the one here in the 15th that should serve as an intriguing early case study of the open primary. The conventional wisdom is that the system, by empowering the minority party, will benefit centrist candidates in districts that lean heavily Democratic or Republican.
That may be the case in other districts, but the 15th is an example of what goes wrong in a one-party system. If there were still party choices on the primary ballot, as we'll see Tuesday in the primary vote for president, it's likely a Republican would have tried to unseat Stark. But with another popular Democrat vying for the congressional seat on the open primary ballot, there was little incentive to give it a shot. Because you have two Democrats, both credentialed, both known in the 15th District, it's almost certain these same two will also compete again in the Nov. 6 General Election. Although Swalwell is campaigning vigorously, Stark has met with his constituents in smaller receptions, like the one he had two weeks ago that was hosted by Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman. Stark boasts of President Obama's endorsement; Swalwell can count on Dubliners and County Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
Of course, there's more to Tuesday's primary than the congressional race, no matter how you vote, if you do. Obama is already the handpicked nominee for reelection by the Democrats; Mitt Romney has also garnered all the delegates he needs to win the Republican nomination. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, first elected in 1992, is considered an easy winner in Tuesday's primary against a long list of wannabee senators, including Feinstein's strongest challenger Elizabeth Emken.
Even the local race for supervisor for the Alameda County Board's District 4, now held by Nate Miley, appears to be a no-brainer. Miley has made frequent appearances in recent months before Pleasanton business, civic and real estate groups, gaining wider recognition and loud applause. His lone opponent is Tojo Thomas, a virtual unknown in Pleasanton until he launched an aggressive promotion and advertising campaign. He faces a tough fight over the next four days.
The polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, but check your sample ballot and voter information pamphlet. With a small turnout projected, your regular polling place may have been consolidated with another.