The campaign for the 16th Assembly district has gotten a lot more interesting since former Pleasanton City Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio declared she will run in the primary.
Cook-Kallio, a Democrat and a retired school teacher, served very effectively on the Pleasanton City Council. Her courage to raise the important issue—that was not popular at the time—of connecting Stoneridge Drive on the eastside to Jack London Boulevard in Livermore resulted a change of policy that created that vital connection.
As a civics teacher for 35 years, she shared my view that council members were elected to study the issues and make decisions, not push any potentially controversial decisions to a direct vote by the public.
When she faces off with Republican incumbent Catharine Baker, an attorney, there will be some very similar aspects to Baker’s successful campaign against former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti. Sbranti was a termed-out, sitting mayor when he took on Baker in a very expensive campaign with interest groups spending millions on both sides.
Tim has been particularly active with the California Teachers Association’s political action arm—a fact that Baker and her backers hammered him on. As a former CTA member and Democrat, Cheryl will face similar challenges and it is likely that the race will again draw lots of interest and millions in expenditures.
One dynamic that the Democrats are counting on in a swing district is a much higher turnout with the presidential election topping the ballot. Earlier this year, the registration was 43 percent Democrat, 28 percent Republican and 23 percent decline-to-state. It was a coalition of the Republicans and independents that carried Baker to her win in December 2014.
Next year, given the strong blue tilt of coastal California and the number of people who live there, it’s unlikely that whomever the Republican presidential nominee will win the state.
But the higher turnout in November generally means more Democratic voters and that will be good news for Cheryl.
Her union ties likely will be a big issue and she will need to work hard to build name identification because she has been out of the public eye in Pleasanton for a couple of years and has never served beyond the local level.
Of course, Baker had no name identification when she jumped into the race and topped both the primary and the general election when four Democrats split up the vote in the primary.
Catharine also has demonstrated a willingness to work across the aisle that is a worthy achievement that will help come campaign time.