Today's special primary election is underway, with polls open until 8 p.m. in a four-way contest that could decide the new state senator for Pleasanton and the rest of State Senate District 7.
Four candidates, all Democrats and all from Contra Costa County, are vying for a top spot in the primary or, if receiving more than 50% of the vote today, outright election to the State Senate.
If that doesn't occur, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff scheduled for May 19.
The candidates are current State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, former Tri-Valley Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer and Concord resident Terry Kremin.
A lone Republican, Pleasanton resident and political newcomer Michaela M. Hertle, also qualified for the ballot, but she announced her withdrawal from the race and endorsed Glazer in early February.
However, Hertle's name remains on the ballot because the deadline to remove it passed before she opted to drop out.
Almost four-fifths of the 7th State Senate District is in Contra Costa County, with the remainder in parts of Alameda County, including Pleasanton.
The seat in California's upper legislative house has been vacant since early January, when officeholder Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) resigned after being elected to Congress.
Bonilla, 54, of Concord was re-elected to a third term last fall representing the 14th Assembly District, which includes parts of northern Contra Costa County, plus Vallejo and Benicia in Solano County. She is due to be termed out of the State Assembly next year.
A former high school English teacher, Bonilla began her elected-office career on the Concord City Council. She later served on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors before winning an Assembly seat in 2010.
Buchanan, an Alamo resident, could have the name-recognition advantage in the primary, having represented more than half of the senatorial district as its assemblywoman for the 16th Assembly District. She was termed out of the Assembly last year after serving six years.
Prior to her time in Sacramento, Buchanan, 62, sat on the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education for 18 years, which included four turns as board president.
Glazer, who has served on the Orinda City Council since 2004, made more of a name for himself regionally last year when he campaigned to succeed Buchanan in the Assembly. He finished third in the June primary, failing to qualify for the fall runoff election won by attorney Catharine Baker (R-Dublin).
Also a California State University trustee, 57-year-old Glazer is a small business owner and a former adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Seeking his first-ever seat in elected public office, Kremin is a Concord scientist with a Ph.D. in psychology: behavioral neuroscience and also a part-time faculty member at Dominican University of California in San Rafael.
Kremin, 50, is no stranger to the election ballot though, having run unsuccessfully for the Concord City Council three times, including last November.
The winner of the State Senate special election will fill an abbreviated term, the remainder of DeSaulnier's four-year term set to expire in 2016.
The 7th District includes Pleasanton, Livermore and Sunol at the south end, Brentwood, Antioch, Pittsburg and Concord to the north, Orinda, Lafayette and Walnut Creek to the west, and the San Ramon Valley.
The senate district consists of all of Buchanan's former Assembly District and a portion of Bonilla's Assembly District as well as parts of the 11th Assembly District (represented by Jim Frazier, D-Oakley) and a sliver of the 20th Assembly District (represented by Bill Quirk, D-Hayward).
In advance of today's primary, the Weekly asked the candidates to submit a statement explaining their views and why Pleasanton voters should cast ballots in their favor.
I'm running for State Senate to continue working to get our state on the right track, keep the budget balanced, invest in our schools, protect small businesses, and create more opportunities for middle and working class families.
As a classroom teacher and local mayor, I saw firsthand how political bickering and misplaced priorities in Sacramento were holding back middle-class families.
I ran for State Assembly to break the cycle of partisan gridlock and bring new priorities to the legislature that put middle-class families, schools and small businesses first.
I've worked with Gov. Jerry Brown and brought leaders from both parties together to create solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing California.
As Chair of the Education Budget Committee, I passed groundbreaking legislation that modernized funding for K-12 schools -- giving parents more control over their schools.
I championed legislation to make college more affordable, secured over $1 billion for training and technology to prepare students for jobs, and delivered tax incentives to help small businesses create and keep jobs in our communities.
I've given East Bay families, small businesses and seniors a strong voice in the Capitol.
"Susan has shown an unmatched ability to bring people together, create common-sense solutions, tackle the toughest issues, and deliver results. Susan Bonilla is the best candidate to represent us in the State Senate," said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier
Sher also has the support of former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern and the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs Association.
From our rolling hills to our thriving small businesses, the Tri-Valley is a very special place that I have been honored to call home for the last 30 years.
It has been a privilege to have represented this area in the State Assembly for the last six years, and before that, on the San Ramon Valley School Board for nearly two decades; and it would be an honor to continue representing you in the state senate.
My campaign is called "Positively for Us," rejecting all negative tactics because I think we're all tired of the negativity and misrepresentations that have unfortunately become the recent standard of campaigning. Instead, I'm focusing on my goals for the future and how we can accomplish great things together.
I am committed to ensuring that California stays on a path of fiscal responsibility by passing on-time, balanced budgets and paying off our debt. I will continue to support performance-based budgeting to keep government accountable.
I have been endorsed by over 80 locally elected leaders because they understand the importance of having a strong partner in Sacramento to strengthen our local communities and support local businesses.
I will fight to protect school funding and to make college more accessible and affordable. As an Assembly member and school board member, I worked with the entire education community -- parents, teachers, and leaders -- to pass major reforms to give local communities more control over our schools, streamline the teacher dismissal process and implement the nation's toughest student internet privacy laws.
You also can count on me to protect the environment and our open space and oppose the construction of the twin tunnels, which would destroy the Delta.
I'm looking forward to working with you to tackle these and other important issues should I be fortunate enough to have your support and vote.
I'm a fiscal conservative with socially progressive values who has been endorsed by Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne and Councilmembers Arne Olson, Kathy Narum and Jerry Pentin.
I have a record of proven independence to stand up to the powerful special interests that dominate the State Legislature.
I was the first elected official to oppose the 2013 BART strikes and support a permanent ban on transit strikes, as in New York and San Francisco. I oppose high-speed rail without a sound financial plan because it drains money from local transportation needs.
I'm a local mayor who is a problem-solver, not a partisan. As a local elected official, I balanced 10 straight budgets without ever taking a salary. As Trustee of the 23-campus California State University system, I fought for affordable and accountable higher education.
I'm a married father of two daughters who have gone through our public schools. I believe we need education policies that put students first and allow local school boards to ensure quality teaching in classrooms regardless of seniority.
A lifelong environmental advocate, I am proud to have been recognized by the Trust for Public Land and Save the Bay for my conservation leadership. We must protect open space and our natural resources, like Pleasanton Ridge, for future generations.
The state government needs to live within its means, make your tax dollars work harder and hold the line on new taxes. Our legislators exercise poor financial discipline that contributes to billion-dollar deficits and tax increases. The best way to ensure budget stability is to create jobs and grow our economy.
I support comprehensive public pension reform that creates a sustainable financial model and ends abuses, especially "spiking."
My opponents used a loophole to collect thousands in tax-free "per diem" income for being in Sacramento on weekends and holidays even when they were not there.
It's time for smart priorities that focus on education, job creation, infrastructure improvements, the environment and caring for those in need without new taxes.
I am the only independent Democrat who has not been in the system, and we need culture change. Rearranging pieces inside the system is not change. I believe in the citizen legislator where people step up, do their jobs and go back to a career. Change requires change.
I am the only candidate who brings science to the Senate: I have a Bachelor of Science from UCLA in psychobiology, a Ph.D. in psychology: behavioral neuroscience (Boston University).
I am the only candidate fully and currently vested in our public education system.
I have a kinder and a 4th-grader in the school system. Sitting on site council and Mt. Diablo parent advisory board, I see the actual results of what Sacramento is doing, and it is not good. I have taught statistics, and I taught myself information theory and MatLab programming in about a month to do that. I am the only candidate who has that depth of analytical understanding.
I am the only candidate who brings an in-depth knowledge of mental health and pharmacology to the Senate floor. I have researched and taught pharmacology. I know how bad our system is, especially the foster care drug scandal. I am the only candidate who brings an in-depth knowledge of pharmacology to the floor of the senate and does not have to rely on others.
I am the only candidate currently and actively teaching (Dominican University). I am the only candidate with current experience at both ends of our education system, and it is not pretty. Not only are we getting college-bound students graduating with high school diplomas totally unprepared for college level work, they do not even know they are not prepared for college level work.
I have political experience. The last 17 years of my life has been pure politics. Nothing happens in academia without politics. Imagine Sacramento politics, but with everyone having Ph.Ds. I can hold my own in any political setting.
There is a real choice in this election that does not simply perpetuate a failing system and cronyism. That choice is Terry Kremin.