The highly anticipated, highly debated 2020 general election officially -- finally -- arrives on Monday, when the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office will start sending out vote-by-mail ballots through the U.S. Postal Service and mark the start of early voting ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3.
While the presidential election, state ballot measures, and city and school board contests will be at the front of many local voters' minds, there will be a handful of regional representative positions on Pleasanton ballots as well.
Four feature familiar candidates, in runoffs after the March primary (U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly and Alameda County Superior Court).
The fifth sees two challengers against the incumbent for BART Board of Directors District 5.
Ahead of ballots going out, the Weekly reached out to the candidates in these five elections to provide input on their campaign priorities, including specific goals for the Tri-Valley, to help better inform Pleasanton voters.
The BART Board of Directors has five of its nine positions up for election this fall during a critical time for the transit agency financially, with ridership down dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic and health orders.
This also marks the first election for the Tri-Valley's District 5 since the proposed extension of full BART to Livermore was voted down by the board majority and the ensuing shift to the Valley Link concept to connect Livermore and San Joaquin County to the BART system at the Dublin-Pleasanton station.
Three-term incumbent John McPartland faces two newcomers on the District 5 ballot, Livermore resident Steven Dunbar and Castro Valley resident Mike Wallace. The four-year seat represents Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Castro Valley and parts of Hayward.
Dunbar, who is running for public office for the first time, is campaigning with a platform of making BART more open, accessible and sustainable.
"I plan to: 1. Enhance communication with the community, making it easier for everyone to get involved, stay involved, send feedback, and build trust in BART and the entire public transit system; 2. Improve accessibility and safety so that people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, incomes and modes of travel know they can depend on BART; and 3. Support sustainability by pursuing both environmental and fiscal policies that will help BART flourish in the coming decades," he told the Weekly.
"I was car-free and transit dependent for years, and I've seen the struggle and toll it takes when the system leaves one stranded. I've also seen the lifeline public transit provides," he added. "I know first-hand what it's like when transit fails us, and these experiences drive my passion to seek out the problems in advance and fix them, no matter the source."
Dunbar lives in Livermore, works for local bus manufacturer Gillig and has experience on his city's Community Asset Management Plan Outreach Committee.
Seeking a fourth consecutive term, McPartland did not respond to the Weekly's request for comment, but his campaign website outlines some top accomplishments from his 12 years and priorities for the term ahead.
"For the past three terms, John McPartland has worked tirelessly representing the best interest of the residents of the Tri-Valley area and portions of south Alameda County in his district. And he has continuously worked with other directors and staff to provide safe, reliable and affordable BART transportation to all."
Among achievements during his tenure, McPartland pointed to the West Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station, Oakland Airport Connector, Warm Springs BART Station, e-BART to Antioch and the agency's new Fleet of the Future rail cars.
As for goals ahead, McPartland cited improving BART safety, enhancing the BART Police Department, addressing fare evasion, supporting BART extensions into Santa Clara County, and playing a role in the Valley Link review and approval process.
McPartland, who is retired, worked for years for the Oakland Fire Department and served in the U.S. Army and later in the Army Reserve, retiring with the rank of colonel. He was also employed as a BART safety specialist for six years before joining the board.
Wallace, also seeking a BART board seat for the first time, is prioritizing fiscal sustainability and agency reliability in his campaign.
"BART riders and taxpayers deserve a safe, clean and affordable transit experience," he told the Weekly. "Making sure we deliver on those principles is commonsense and what all BART riders deserve. The current budget shortfall has only worsened with the pandemic and we must get back on track to save our commuter rail system."
"The current incumbent has steered the BART system into a fiscal mess," Wallace added. "My experience as a financial analyst for the Zone 7 Water Agency in Livermore and my time with the Alameda County Employees Retirement Association has prepared me with the knowledge to fix the financial chaos, and get BART back on track."
Wallace lives in Castro Valley and has worked for the past 10 years with Zone 7.
Alameda County Superior Court
Trial attorney Elena Condes and civil rights attorney Mark Fickes are facing off for the Alameda County Superior Court Department 2 bench opening up with the retirement of Judge Carol Brosnahan.
The two longtime litigators finished first and second, respectively, in the three-candidate primary election, with Condes leading the way with 41.18%, followed by Fickes at 38.16% -- but neither earned the 50% majority required to win the seat outright in March, pushing the race to a runoff on Nov. 3.
Both candidates have pointed to their legal experience as well as their personal diversity as positive attributes to elevate the bench if elected: Fickes as civil rights attorney and former prosecutor who would be the first openly gay Jewish man on the Alameda County Superior Court and Condes as a private criminal defense attorney for the past 26 years and a small business owner who would add the perspectives of a Latinx woman, lesbian and mother to the court.
"I am running for this judicial seat in order to bring my experience, diversity and compassion to the Alameda County Superior Court bench," Condes told the Weekly. "Alameda County is a wonderfully diverse county with many competing interests and issues and deserves a diverse court bench."
"Having served as a judge pro tem in the Alameda County courts, I have first-hand knowledge of how important it is that judges understand the experiences and struggles of those who come before them. I understand too that the true measure of a judge is the depth of their legal knowledge, integrity, and commitment to equal justice and the rule of law," she continued, adding:
"If elected I plan to contribute in all ways possible to removing the barriers to access to justice, including those posed by the distances currently required to seek the court's help in family law, landlord/tenant disputes, restraining orders and probate matters. Also, I look to expand on programs in the court that provide alternatives for conviction and incarceration for non-violent and youthful offenders."
Fickes told the Weekly his top three campaign priorities include "to help deal with the backlog of cases given my unique perspective of having extensive civil and criminal litigation experience. I will be able to hit the ground running in either a civil or criminal department, both of which will have to address the impact of COVID-19."
Secondly, "many types of cases are currently consolidated in a single courthouse, such as in Berkeley or Hayward. This can be tremendously burdensome for someone who is unhoused, underemployed or unemployed," he said. "Distributing cases throughout the county is one way to reduce those barriers. I intend to be a voice for positive change in how cases are currently handled."
Fickes lastly cited a focus on the conservatorship process. "This can be devastating, especially when the person placed in charge of another person's well-being and financial affairs is a stranger," he said. "I would like to work with my colleagues to make sure the courts do everything they can to hear all voices and protect those who can no longer take care of themselves."
Neither judicial candidate lives or works directly in the Tri-Valley, but both referenced personal experiences in the area as well as endorsements from local elected leaders in the Valley.
State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) is competing against real estate appraiser Joe Rubay (R-Alamo) in her bid for a second consecutive two-year term in the state's lower legislative house in Sacramento.
As the only two candidates on the primary election ballot, Bauer-Kahan and Rubay automatically advanced to a required two-candidate runoff on Nov. 3. The incumbent finished first in March with 68.3% to the challenger's 31.7%.
Assembly District 16 consists of the Tri-Valley and Lamorinda communities as well as a majority of Walnut Creek.
Reflecting on her first term in office, Bauer-Kahan told the Weekly she was "especially proud that all 15 of my bills that made it to the governor's desk have received bipartisan support."
"These bills have addressed issues like climate change, preserving Tesla park in Livermore, gun safety, smart criminal justice reform, local transportation and fiscally sound solutions that will save the state millions through streamlining government processes," Bauer-Kahan said, also referring to her effort to secure funding for Dublin's all-abilities playground.
"Protecting our district from wildfire has also been one of my top priorities, and in addition to working with the governor and local officials to harden our defenses, I'm reintroducing legislation that will hold utilities like PG&E accountable when they fail to meet safety standards," she added, with an eye to the term ahead.
Bauer-Kahan also said she looks forward to continue working as chair of the Select Committee on Women's Reproductive Health, holding the line on potential cuts to education, fighting to secure funding for Valley Link, and prioritizing COVID-19 relief and resources for her district.
"When COVID-19 hit our state, the effects were devastating and brought challenges that have dramatically shifted the focus of the legislature, but I have always held the values and needs of our district close to my heart," she said. "We're working with our small businesses to help keep them afloat and my office has assisted thousands of individuals who needed access to critical resources."
Rubay, an Alamo resident since his youth, has worked in the real estate appraising business for more than 30 years and currently sits on the Alamo Police Services Advisory Committee. He also served on the Contra Costa County Fair Board and the Alamo Improvement Association.
He previously ran for statewide office four years ago, finishing second by a 2:1 margin to State Senate District 7 election.
In the 2020 election for State Assembly, Rubay told the Weekly he aims to "represent the Tri-Valley with a commonsense, independent voice that will work to repeal our sanctuary state law. It is a tragedy that the legislature passed this law after the tragic death of Kate Steinle."
Another priority, according to Rubay referring to the COVID-19 situation, is to "get our children back to school and our small businesses up and running. Just last month our state senator was calling for additional lockdowns. I believe in the individual; I believe in the people of the Tri-Valley to take all safety precautions -- social distance, washing hands, wearing masks when you cannot social distance and staying home when sick."
Rubay added that he would work to restore balance in the State Legislature and reduce government regulation and "over-control."
"Our school system needs the challenge that charter schools bring out. Our health care system need a bit of market-based sanity. Our housing situation can be improved not by adding more restrictions (i.e. rent restrictions), yet by less restrictions and aiding smart local planning," he said.
State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) faces political newcomer Julie Mobley (R-Danville), whose professional background is in engineering but who listed mother as her ballot designation.
The pair advanced to the Nov. 3 runoff after the three-candidate March primary saw Glazer finish in first place with 48.3% of the vote and Mobley garner second place with 27.2%.
State Senate District 7 includes Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin 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.
Glazer is seeking a second full term after winning a special election to fill the District 7 vacancy in May 2015 and then earning a full four-year term in the 2016 general election by defeating Rubay.
The incumbent told the Weekly he was proud that "in this hyper-partisan political environment, I have worked hard to be a constructive problem solver in the Senate. I have honored the principle that government closer to the people is better and have resisted efforts to create one-size-fits-all mandates."
Glazer pointed to original legislative accomplishments to date including strengthening the state's assault weapon ban, requiring financial disclosures on small business loans to prevent predatory lending, tax protection for water conservation projects, and the ban of the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products.
"Importantly, every piece of legislation I have authored has had bipartisan support," he added.
Looking ahead, Glazer said, "If I am graced with a new term in the Senate, I will continue my efforts to be a champion for public education, defender of our fragile environment, advocate for local control, protector of civil and human rights, and steward of fiscally responsible state budgeting."
"I can do my best work when it is done in partnership with Tri-Valley school and city leaders and an engaged citizenry," he continued. "Each of us has high expectations for the community where we live. I will do my best to live up to these high standards in my representation in the State Capitol."
Mobley, who advanced to the runoff as the lone Republican on the March ballot after hardly campaigning before the primary including not submitting a candidate statement and having no apparent campaign website at that time, has reversed her strategy ahead of the general election.
A Danville resident with a background in engineering, specifically product development, Mobley has been a community volunteer in local public schools and served on the 2019-20 Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury. This State Senate campaign is her first time running for public office.
Mobley told the Weekly her top priority is to "provide creative options for reopening businesses and schools with precautions to minimize health risks. Parents, kids and teachers need choices for returning to school safely and we should allow businesses to adapt in order to reopen."
Infrastructure is another goal, to "design modern systems for power and transportation that are reliable, safe, clean and affordable," she said.
Mobley said she would also prioritize actions to "aggressively address extreme fire risk in the state" such as investing in emerging fire detection and suppression technologies, providing more resources for state and local fire agencies, thinning forest growth, establishing more fuel breaks and developing new power models.
And a final priority, she said, would be to "explore innovations in policing while fully staffing law enforcement. I support the idea of partnering mental health/social workers with police for certain calls and creatively addressing the many challenges agencies have recruiting and keeping their departments staffed with highly qualified applicants."
U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Livermore) is bidding for a fifth consecutive term in the U.S. House of Representatives for District 15 against Alison Hayden, a Republican special education teacher from Hayward.
The two finalists advanced out of a seven-candidate primary election, with Swalwell earning first place with 59.0% of the vote and Hayden emerging from a field of unheralded challengers to finish in second with 17.0%.
The 15th Congressional District represents Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Sunol, Castro Valley, Hayward, Union City and the northern part of Fremont, along with parts of Contra Costa County, including San Ramon and a portion of Danville.
Hayden is a former financial professional and Peace Corps director/volunteer who now works in secondary and special education. She has prior election experience, having won a position on the Central Committee of the Alameda County Republican Party.
"I entered the race because I recognize signs of the decay of our country’s high standards and lowered international reputation," Hayden told the Weekly. "I have seen the breakdown of the family, opioid pandemic, falling education ratings with government supplanting parents and local organizations to meet growing needs. We must strengthen the family for communities’ strength and connectedness, the core of any robust society."
"Now COVID, wildfires and civil unrest bring health and human safety to the priority," she added. "The safety of children, families and our seniors is critical. These events and their aftermath will impact our communities with differing magnitudes and an urgent dynamic local address will most determine the future of CA-15, indeed the whole of the country."
As for specific priorities in District 15, Hayden listed traffic congestion solutions while rethinking Valley Link as the best option, intelligent development and growth, jobs and training, and cutting taxes, regulations and costs.
With a campaign website that cites her motivation as "to stop an unelected elite from taking our voice and choice under a Socialist order," Hayden added that a vote for her is "a vote to represent your interests in the American Republic, its legal protection of our unalienable rights and responsibilities, our futures and those of our children and future generations."
Swalwell, a former Dublin City Council member and Alameda County prosecutor who first won election to Congress in 2012, has become one of the more visible members of the House, in part because of his presence on social media and television interviews as a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans. He briefly campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president but bowed out after three months in July 2019.
The incumbent congressman cited the coronavirus pandemic among his top priorities for the term ahead, including "shaping and implementing real action to combat COVID -- including testing, tracing, and rapid, widespread deployment of a safe, effective vaccine when it's available -- while providing all necessary relief to struggling families; we need a return to normalcy as soon as safely possible."
"We must regain our world leadership on combating climate chaos. We must make sure no American lacks affordable health care. We must get tougher on other nations' efforts to interfere with our democracy. And we must restore Americans' confidence in our public institutions," he added.
In District 15, Swalwell said his goals include sustaining the Tri-Valley's status as a "burgeoning tech innovation hub as well as an affordable and desirable place to live," as well as securing federal funding to bring Valley Link toward construction.
"I'll keep representing Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley in Congress as I always have -- with honesty, with energy, and with an eye toward justice and opportunity for all. I remain deeply humbled and grateful to be your voice in Congress," he said.
Editor's note: For those still needing to sign up, there is time to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election. To learn more, visit www.acvote.org.