I know Republicans who voted for Jerry Brown in 2010. They thought he’d be like Richard Nixon going to China and stand up to public employee unions by fixing a dysfunctional pension system. They thought he’d live up to his pose as elder sage, ready to do what’s best for California. After he won a return engagement as governor, Brown liked to bloviate about the need for elected officials to demonstrate “loyalty to California.”
I don’t think he really understands what loyalty is.
One close California Assembly race should disabuse conservatives of any notion that Brown will be loyal to what’s right for the state. Two name Democrats competed in the June primary to represent the East Bay’s District 16 — Orinda City Councilor Steve Glazer, a longtime Brown adviser, and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti. Glazer was a man on a mission; he wanted to pass a law to ban Bay Area Rapid Transit strikes. Sbranti had BART unions’ backing — no surprise, as he used to run the California Teachers Association’s political action committee. If you like BART strikes, then you should love Sbranti, who supports them.
GOP candidate Catharine Baker presented a credible challenge to both Democrats. She’s a smart, well-credentialed candidate with moderate views that fit the district. This Republican, however, thought that the strategic voter should go for Glazer in the top-two primary. It’s not often voters have a chance to send a reform-minded Democrat to Sacramento, I wrote at the time, and the alternative was a runoff that would threaten to ensconce yet another public-employee-union true believer in Sacramento.
The primary turned into a mudfest between labor interests that wanted to bury Glazer and business interests that wanted him to prevail. Baker came out on top. Sbranti placed second. Glazer didn’t make the runoff — which presents one of those what-might-have-been questions that politicos love: What would have happened if Brown had endorsed his longtime aide and friend Glazer in the primary?
Come to think of it: Why didn’t Brown endorse the man who managed his winning 2010 campaign and served as an unpaid adviser thereafter? Brown “rarely endorses,” Brown campaign spokesman Dan Newman answered, “and even more rarely endorses in Democrat-on-Democrat races.” OK, but: Brown endorsed South Bay Rep. Mike Honda, who is facing an ambitious challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, so we know that Brown will do it to protect an entrenched incumbent.
Democratic consultant Steve Maviglio believes that “Glazer’s mail and messaging heavily implied that he had the governor’s endorsement, complete with photographs and quotes.” So why not go all the way?
On Wednesday, Glazer endorsed Baker. He explained on Facebook that he had asked both candidates to share their thoughts on key questions. Would they support a ban on fundraising during the final 60 days of the legislative year? Would they post answers to candidate questionnaires on their websites? Would they support a ban on public transit strikes? Baker essentially answered yes, but Sbranti would not respond. (We know that Sbranti has refused to disclose his answers to secret questionnaires and that he supports transit worker strikes.) Though Sbranti is a fellow Democrat, Glazer wrote, “allegiance to any political party continues to get in the way of progress.”
When Glazer stood up to the BART unions, he did it for regional commuters, as well as the best interests of the state. There is a principle involved here: Public transit is supposed to exist for the public, not for transit workers. As Baker consultant Duane Dichiara noted, Sbranti is “the unions’ man. When they say ‘jump,’ he’ll say, ‘How high?’”
Next, Dao Governor endorsed Sbranti, the Democrat who beat his friend. Brown wrote that Sbranti “has a proven record of independence, experience, and fiscal leadership.” That’s cold.
In Baker, voters have a Republican who wants to work with Democrats while improving the state’s financial strength and improving the state’s business climate. Brown didn’t care; he went for the Democrat.
My take-away: Brown is not loyal to his friends. He is loyal to his party. And he put party before “loyalty to California.”