The Nov. 6 general election appears as if it will be as closely watched as any other midterm election in recent memory, with political lines drawn for critical races across California and the United States.
While many eyes in the Bay Area will no doubt be glued to out-of-area contests, Pleasanton voters can have their voices heard on the range of representative positions and state propositions on their ballots. Offices such as State Assembly, Congress and California governor, and ballot issues like gas tax repeal, another water bond and veteran housing funding -- to name a few.
Then again, one of the talking points in town has been what is not on the local ballot this time around.
Voters do have two Pleasanton-specific elections to decide this November, with mayor and two City Council seats on the ballot. (The Weekly profiled the city races last week.)
Also scheduled for regular election this fall were two positions on the Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees, but the election was canceled after only sitting trustees Joan Laursen and Mark Miller filed candidacy papers.
No contested election -- when the number of candidates equals the available seats -- has been a familiar occurrence for the school district over the years. It was most recently the case in 2012, 2006, 2004 and 2002.
Incumbents Laursen and Miller, who have been reappointed for new four-year terms after going unchallenged, each elaborated on individual priorities for their term ahead in recent interviews with the Weekly.
Laursen said she is honored to have the opportunity to serve a third consecutive term on the school board.
"One of my top goals as your trustee is to continue to provide the stability in leadership that is critical not only for recruiting and retaining quality staff, but is necessary for sustained growth in student learning," said Laursen, who also works full-time as a budget analyst for the nearby Castro Valley Unified School District -- which is led by former Pleasanton schools superintendent Parvin Ahmadi.
"I strongly support staff training to integrate technology tools, more project-based learning, and social-emotional learning so all students gain the necessary skills to be successful in the global economy," she added.
Laursen pointed to competency-based learning and fiscal stewardship as her other leading priorities.
"I am very interested in competency-based education and believe that the availability of technology combined with our excellent teaching staff has us poised to really begin exploring the concept," she said. "It is an exciting time to be in education."
"Finally, as a financial analyst, I am committed to ensuring that we not only maintain our fiscal health, but make continuous improvements in transparency and accountability," Laursen said. "This is increasingly important as we build out the Facilities Master Plan made possible through the community's support of the bond measure (in 2016)."
Miller expressed optimism about the district's position now and the direction it is headed for the next four years, though he acknowledged there is also work still to be done.
"In addition to our world class teachers and staff, we have innovative yet responsible leadership, bond funds with which to enhance learning environments and reduce school overcrowding, and a cohesive governing board," said Miller, a senior manager (enterprise architecture) for Chevron Oronite who is entering his second straight term on the school board.
"We are fiscally well managed, and we offer comprehensive programs to ensure college and career readiness. But we are far from perfect," Miller added.
He listed four key priorities for his upcoming term, all of which he said are "necessary for our students to reach their highest potential, and for them to make a better world."
"1. Ensuring we are attracting and retaining the best instructors, staff and administrators. 2. We fulfill our promise to the community to execute our bond as efficiently and responsibly as possible," Miller said. "3. We continue the evolution of our learning strategies and techniques to meet our changing world realities, and 4. We continue to build trust with our parents and community."
Now it's time to focus on what is on the extended ballot.
Pleasanton voters will join neighbors in surrounding communities in helping decide runoff elections for State Assembly District 16, Congressional District 15 and Alameda County Assessor, along with the Ward 5 seat on the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors.
State Assembly: Residents throughout District 16 should be well aware of this race -- assuming they check their mailboxes.
Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-Dublin) is running for her third consecutive term representing the Tri-Valley, Walnut Creek and Lamorinda communities.
Baker has held tightly onto a key seat for the Republicans in the Democrat-laden Assembly. Still, her record in office includes working with legislators on both sides of the aisle, such as fellow Tri-Valley representative, State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda).
Challenging for the Assembly seat is Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat from Orinda.
An attorney and law professor, Bauer-Kahan has school volunteer and nonprofit service experience, but the Assembly position would mark her first elected or local government service time.
Baker won the primary election by a comfortable margin (56.6% to 43.4% over Bauer-Kahan), but voter turnout tends to be larger in general elections.
Accordingly, the campaigns have kicked into high gear with less than a month to go.
The main issues so far -- so say the campaign fliers filling voter mailboxes across District 16 -- are the Republican's record on women's health rights, environmental protection and gun control. The Baker campaign cites her voting history as progressive and bipartisan, while Bauer-Kahan backers argue the incumbent hasn't demonstrated enough consistency.
The candidates delved into those issues, and more, at the Weekly's Assembly candidate forum last month at Congregation Beth Emek. The video can be viewed on PleasantonWeekly.com.
U.S. House of Representatives: Incumbent Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) is being challenged by political newcomer Rudy Peters (R-Livermore) in his bid for a fourth consecutive term representing District 15, which runs from Livermore to the east, Hayward to the west, San Ramon and Castro Valley from the north and Fremont to the south.
A former Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, Swalwell has been a rising member of the Democratic Party at the state and national levels since taking office in 2013 and is now one of the most visibly outspoken critics of President Donald Trump -- so much so that this summer he acknowledged considering a presidential run in 2020.
Swalwell said his priorities for his next congressional term would be jobs and the economy, family issues, veterans, seniors and transportation.
Peters, who has never held elected office but previously served on the city of Livermore Human Services Commission, is a Navy veteran and owner of AARD Solutions, Inc., a systems engineering firm geared toward the U.S. intelligence industry.
Among his top campaign goals, Peters lists strong economy, affordable health care, fiscal responsibility, immigration solutions and public safety.
Swalwell dominated the three-candidate primary in June that set the stage for the November showdown, finishing with 70.5% of the vote compared to Peters at 26.2%.
County Assessor: In the runoff to succeed retiring Alameda County Assessor Ron Thomsen are real estate tax attorney Phong La and Alameda resident Jim Johnson, who is chief of the Assessor's Assessment Services Division.
La, who lives in Alameda and practices in Newark, finished first in the four-candidate primary with 38.86% of the vote, with Johnson in second at 24.88%, in the race to become the elected official charged with determining the taxable value of all land, improvements, and business and personal property in the county.
La said his focus as assessor would be fair and accurate taxation while implementing fresh ideas to simplify and improve the assessment process for residents and commercial representatives.
Johnson, who has worked for the office for 26 years, including the past 10 as assessment services chief, points to his experience with assessment management and an ability to make decisions free of political motivation.
EBRPD: Longtime Director Ayn Wieskamp is being challenged by small business owner Dev Gandhi to serve as Pleasanton's representative on the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors.
In addition to Pleasanton, the Ward 5 seat covers Dublin, part of Fremont, Livermore, Newark, Scott's Corner and Sunol.
An EBRPD board member since 1999, Wieskamp is a former member of the Livermore City Council and Livermore Area Recreation and Park District Board of Directors, in addition to being a former public school teacher.
A Fremont tech entrepreneur, Gandhi says on his campaign website that he was inspired to run in order to help address problems he's seen at East Bay parks, namely Mission Peak.
Others to watch: Two other local boards that affect the Tri-Valley have seats up for grabs this fall, though neither appears on Pleasanton residents' ballots.
Five candidates are running for two board seats up for election for Dublin San Ramon Services District, which provides water and wastewater services to Dublin and parts of San Ramon as well as sewer service to Pleasanton by contract. But Pleasanton residents do not vote because the city is outside of the district's official boundaries.
Pleasanton's positions on the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District board weren't up for election this year, but the district's Board Area 3 seat is being contested Nov. 6.
U.S. Senate: Four-term incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein is facing a challenger from within her own party, Kevin de LeĆ³n, a state senator from Los Angeles.
Governor: Outgoing Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is running against San Diego business executive John Cox, a Republican. The two squared off for their only scheduled debate of the campaign earlier this week.
Lt. Governor: Another two-Democrat contest, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis (who finished first in the primary) is matched against State Senator Ed Hernandez (D-San Gabriel), the second-place candidate in the primary.
Secretary of State: One-term Democrat incumbent Alex Padilla faces Republican attorney Mark P. Meuser, who is from Walnut Creek.
Attorney General: Incumbent Xavier Becerra, a Democrat appointed last year after predecessor Kamala Harris' election to the U.S. Senate, is running for a full term against retired South Lake Tahoe Judge Steven Bailey, a Republican.
Controller: Incumbent Democrat Betty Yee is being challenged by Republican Konstantinos Roditis.
Treasurer: Board of Equalization Chair Fiona Ma (D) is running against businessman Greg Conlon (R).
Insurance Commissioner: A familiar name, former insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, who served 2007-11 as a Republican, is on the ballot for another term, now without party preference. He faces State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).
Superintendent of Public Instruction: A non-partisan position, State Assemblyman Tony Thurmond from Richmond and Marshall Tuck, the runner-up for this seat four years ago.
Board of Equalization: Vying for the District 2 seat vacated by Ma are San Francisco County Supervisor Malia Cohen (D) and Silicon Valley realtor Mark Burns (R).
There are 11 state propositions on the ballot, though the labeling goes to No. 12 because the original Proposition 9 -- a proposal to split California into three -- was removed from the ballot by the California Supreme Court.
Prop 1 would authorize the issuance of $4 billion in bonds for housing programs and veteran home loans.
Prop 2 would allow the state to use revenue from the Prop 63 millionaire's tax for $2 billion in bonds for homeless prevention housing.
Prop 3 asks the voters to authorize $8.877 billion in bonds for water-related infrastructure and environmental projects.
Prop 4 would authorize $1.5 billion in bonds for children's hospital projects, including construction, renovation and equipment.
Prop 5 would change the process for how tax assessments are transferred for home-buyers who are 55 years old or older, or are severely disabled.
Prop 6 would repeal the fuel tax and vehicle license fee increases approved in 2017 as well as require public votes on any such increases in the future.
Prop 7 would allow the State Legislature to adopt permanent daylight saving time, if the federal government doesn't object.
Prop 8 would require kidney dialysis clinics to issue refunds to patients or their insurance payers for revenue above 115% of the costs of direct patient care and health care improvements.
Prop 10 would allow local governments to regulate rent on any form of housing.
Prop 11 would require private-sector emergency ambulance employees to remain on-call during work breaks. It would also require employers in that field to provide specific trainings and cover certain costs of mental health services for employees.
Prop 12 would ban the sale of meat from animals that are kept in confined spaces smaller than specified sizes.