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."