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Assembly Candidates Display Poise, Passion, Pragmatism

Candidates hoping to represent San Leandro in the state legislature took part in a debate at the Bal Theatre Wednesday.


Three Democrats who hope to represent San Leandro in the state Legislature's 18th Assembly District held a Wednesday night debate at the Bal Theatre.

Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta took the prize for poise during the hour-long session.

Peralta Community College District trustee Abel Guillen, an Oakland resident, came across as most passionate.

AC Transit District director and fellow Oaklander Joel Young, who was at another event, was represented by his campaign manager, who painted his candidate as a pragmatist.

Under new California election rules, the two highest vote getters in the June primary will face each other in the general election.

Republican Rhonda Weber, a small business owner from Alameda, will be the fourth candidate on the ballot but she hasn't campaigned.

That means two of the three Democrats at Wednesday night's debate will end up running against each other again in the fall.

Bonta was relaxed and articulate as he rose to address the audience for the first time, one hand holding the microphone, the other tucked in his pants pocket.

He talked of being raised by Filipino parents who were farm worker organizers, and doing laundry to put himself through Yale, where he earned academic and athletic honors as well as a law degree.

Geography is important in this campaign. Oakland voters dominate a district that includes and Alameda and San Leandro, and Bonta played to his almost home-town advantage.

Asked what he would do to keep San Leandro Hospital open in the face of a possible shutdown by Sutter Health, Bonta talked of meeting a similar challenge in Alameda where, as a health care district board member, he helped win passage of a parcel tax to keep that facility open.

Bonta also mentioned the fiber optic loop being installed by OSIsoft founder Patrick Kennedy, a project that many consider the most important economic driver in San Leandro outside of the new Kaiser Hospital.

Guillen, a portly man, took to the stage with an intensity that brought a quiver to his voice at times.

He spoke of being the first member of his family to go to college, and of his parents, each of whom had worked for more than 30 years at modest but solid job, like his dad, a unionized baker the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco.

Guillen said he had experience in finance, had served as a state legislative staffer and had helped clean up a fiscal and administrative mess at Peralta Community College District.

His depth of feeling surface when he spoke of education. "This graduating class has seen nothing but cuts from kindergarten through 12th grade," he said at one point.

It was impossible to get a sense of Young, whose campaign has been distracted by controversies arising from a past altercation with a former girlfriend.

Campaign manager Mark Goodwin, who spoke for Young given the scheduling conflict that prevented the latter's appearance, painted the candidate as a problem-solver who liked to take concrete actions.

For instance, Goodwin said Young had helped push a "Buy American" policy through the AC Transit Board that resulted in to build buses that will be used in the East Bay.

Asked what Young's first legislative act would be, Goodwin said it would be a similar, practical effort to change how state agencies evaluate bids, to take into account such things as the job creation potential of in-state spending, the likelihood of getting people off unemployment and of lightening the demand for social services.

The debate was organized by San Leandro political activist Charlie Gilcrest. About 50 people attended. City Manager Chris Zapata served as moderator and injected the occasional note of levity.

"We had 15 question, and all but one of them was good," he said as the debate ended, adding that he didn't think voters needed an answer to the issue of "Boxers versus briefs."

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Marga Lacabe May 17, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I have to agree with Tom that Abel was the winner of the evening. Joel not only wasn't there and has some serious anger management issues he needs to address before he should run for dog catcher, but he has nothing to offer. OK, so now we're buying buses from an American company rather than a Belgian one (Belgium? Why Belgium? I'd have thought Japan, Korea, Germany - but Belgium?), but how's that going to fix the state? Bonta was poised, but wooden. He didn't have an answer as to how his platform was different from the other candidates. He seemed to still be thinking as an Alameda City Council person, rather than as someone who should try to lead the state. One of this two priorities is to give redevelopment moneys to former military bases? I want something more compelling from whoever I send to Sacramento. His other priority, allowing cities with public safety problems to delve into some emergency fun to fund police, may be a good idea but again it's too city-centered. Abel was in better form, preaching a progressive gospel that he seems to believe in his core. People seemed to be quite impressed - and it's saying something that he even moved Tom (who I don't think would describe himself as a progressive). I wish Abel would do a better job of campaigning, I think he really has the goods.
Leah Hall May 17, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Tom's prizes for passion, poise, and pragmatism sound about right to me. I can't say any of the candidates really stood out. My sense is that Joel Young would be the most effective in the role, hence he earned Tom's pragmatic prize. A few things I heard presented to the audience last evening, but not mentioned in the article above: -- Joel Young wasn't able to attend because his campaign only learned about this event on Monday and had already another event. -- Joel Young says he is running for State Assembly because he wants to bring jobs and starts up to the East Bay (as noted above) but in addition he is the only candidate focusing on early childhood education for every child in our community noting (from his campaign website) that "we know that young men of color start to fall behind at an early age, and that as each year goes by it becomes harder and more expensive to intervene, right up to the point that they land in prison. We know that every dollar we invest in early childhood education saves almost three dollars in prison spending down the road. We know that, and yet we've failed to act..." -- Joel Young's campaign manager said that he really wanted to hear from the community and that so far has only received /2/ e-mails.
Leah Hall May 17, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Almost forgot another item presented last night... Marga is running for re-election as part of a slate for the Democratic Party County Central Committee, County of Alameda (a diverse group of individuals from 3 urban areas: Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro). Go Marga! http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/06/05/ca/alm/race/007/
Tom Abate (Editor) May 18, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Marga: I wasn't aware that I sought to declare a winner so I'm not sure that you "can agree with Tom that Abel was the winner of the evening." I simply looked for a headline that didn't scream BORING and was at the same time a defensible, one-sentence distillation of an hour long event. Nevertheless, I would rather you were happy with me than the reverse :)
Janell Hampton May 20, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Poise, passion, and pragmatism may be the priority to some, but in my world, as a public educator, the priorities are experience, dependability, honesty, and action. That's why I will be supporting Abel Guillen. He has served on the peralta community college district Board of Trustees for six years and in this difficult economic time, he has produced balanced budgets, lead the motion of divesting Peralta's money from greedy corporate banks to local, community banks, and done everything he can to support the interests of education and labor. That's why California teachers (CFT) and California nurses (CNA) endorse him. It doesn't take much to figure out that Abel Guillen is the best candidate for this position. He isn't using it as a stepping stone- he takes his commitments seriously; he's not a half term then I leave for the higher position type of guy. His character as a citizen is unimpeachable and his experience is real. He doesn't need to fabricate his endorsements. Abel Guillen for AD 18- this for education, safety, and labor.
Leah Hall May 20, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Cool, thanks for sharing your endorsement, Janell. One clarification, it isn't quite correct to characterize "poise, passion, and pragmatism" as "priorities" for voters. It's more correct to say that was being pitched by each candidate at the debate in an attempt to differentiate each other to the audience. It is quite fair to say that all 3 candidates want to stand out and get our votes - and Tom has done an excellent job capturing the vibe of the evening..... Other than recording the chirp of crickets, for actually there were /very/ few folks in the audience who didn't have speaking/official roles or theater staffing duties.
anthony May 22, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Missed it live but again slbytes has it up on youtube. Thanks, very helpful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SO_4wBpB1qE&list=UUkX2f-SBAmRS9-ocW9c3f0Q&index=1&feature=plcp
Janell Hampton May 29, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Good points, Leah!


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