Ballots will look different in today's statewide primary

Top 2 winners in Pleasanton congressional district will compete again on Nov. 6

Voters going to the polls today in the California primary will find their ballots looking quite different from those in years' past.

President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney will still give voters the option of voting in the Democratic or Republican party race.

But in statewide and local races, the competition under California's new open primary format is largely a sparring session ahead of the main event -- the General Election on Nov. 6 -- with party designations no longer a factor.

In years past, incumbent Congressman Pete Stark and challenger Eric Swalwell would have been fighting desperately by now to knock each other out in the newly formed 15th Congressional District that will serve all of Pleasanton, with the winner of next Tuesday's primary all but guaranteed a general election victory over token Republican opposition.

But today, barring a major upset, the two Democrats will emerge from a field of three candidates to form one of the most compelling tests of the system, in which the top two vote-getters move on to the November election, regardless of party affiliation.

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 happens when both top candidates are in the same party. Because both candidates are credentialed Democrats, both well-known in the new 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 today's primary than the congressional race, no matter how you vote. In addition to Obama and Romney on the national ballot, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, first elected in 1992, is considered an easy winner 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, may not be much of a contest. 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 in tomorrow's election.

The polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, but check your sample ballot and voter information pamphlet. With a small turnout projected, your regular polling place may have been consolidated with another.


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Posted by Janet
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:06 am

Pete Stark has been ranked as one of the 10 worst members of Congress. He is so bad that his own Democrat party rejected him for a powerful commitee charmanship. They were afraid that Stark would profoundly embarass the Democrats. It is with that background that we see Stark endorsed by "The Amateur" President Obama and our own Hippy Mayor. Of course, we know why the Hippy Mayor endorsed Stark. She wants his seat when he finally recognizes he is senile, or he croaks, whichever occurs first. If Swalwell gets in, she would be locked out. That alone is reason enough to vote for Swalwell.

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Posted by Jamie
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

Okay, I admit it. I find Hosterman to be kind of sexy, and she's smart. If voting for Stark is a way to help her own political trajectory, I'm all for it.

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Posted by Warren
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2012 at 11:27 am

The only logic I've hear about voting to return Pete Stark to congess goes something like this...

"Sure Pete is old and seems to have lost it, but if you'll just vote for him one more time, then the party insiders will give you a good candidate next time, or when Pete finally decides to retire"

In fact the biggest supporters of Pete in this election seem to be two people who want to run for the office in two years.
One is Hosterman and the other is Ro Khanna.
Sorry you two, but if you wanted the office, then why didn't you face Pete Stark this time.
Remember, 40 years ago, Pete Stark did exactly that, and beat the then 80 year old tired incumbent. He didn't wait until the party insiders said it was OK, and he didn't wait until the incumbent decided he was too cooked to continue.

I for one, won't be deluded by this false "wait until Pete retires" logic. He is no longer capable NOW,, not 2 or 4 years from now.

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Posted by Dave
a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm

It should be required viewing for all voters to see the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters. If anybody that watched the debate and still could think Pete Stark is qualified to represent us, I hope they are in the minority. His outright untruths, which he was forced to apologize for under threat of a lawsuit, his arrogance and dishonesty were on public display during that debate. Since then, although asked to take part in several debates, has refused to saying he would only consider from "reputable organizations". To imply that organizations as the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Asian Pacific Islander Public Affairs Association are not reputable only reinforce the fact that Pete Stark is unfit to continue to serve. Both other candidates, Eric Swalwell and Chris Pareja are worthy of consideration for the office. Pete Stark is not.

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Posted by Suzanne
a resident of Las Positas
on Jun 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I saw the debate Dave referred to and agree that Stark needs to go. I am voting for Chris Pareja. He clearly "won" the debate at the League of Women Voters. With Swalwell we will get more of the same progressive policies. I hope that people will take the time to look at Pareja's positions on his website. I also attended a townhall with Stark where someone asked if there are any restrictions placed on what Congress can do. He answered that Congress can pretty much do anything. I guess he forgot about the Constitution he swore to uphold. Maybe he should read it sometime. As for Jeb Bing's prediction that Swalwell and Stark will be the top two contenders coming out of the primary, maybe he should do some old fashioned investigative journalism to find out what the voters are thinking about the race. But I guess that is passé. However, Bing covers himself when he says "barring a major upset". If Pareja makes it past the primary, Bing can declare a "major upset" or a "big surprise" when he reports that his assumptions proved incorrect.

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Posted by Wiliam Tell
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I think it shows the Bay Area's commitment to "diveristy" that we've had a communist, athiest homosexual (who is now elderly)represent us for so long. Why would we want to put someone in place who would actually do something for our district?

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Posted by Concernedd
a resident of Canyon Creek
on Jun 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm

William Tell, you are just as bad as Pete Stark slinging around false accusations. Clean up your act.

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