A Moderate Democrat Actually

Orinda, California, Mayor Steve Glazer says that he is running for a state Senate seat vacated by now-Rep. Mark DeSaulnier “as a pragmatic problem-solver rather than a partisan.” In my line of work, I hear that sort of stock phrase all the time; I take it with a grain of salt. In Glazer’s case, however, two facts suggest he means business: 1) He supports a law to prohibit Bay Area Rapid Transit workers from striking as they did in 2013. 2) Public employee unions have shoveled hundreds of thousands of dollars to help defeat Glazer, a Democrat.

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This race is so dirty that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and California Professional Firefighters both dumped $25,000 into a six-figure independent expenditure campaign that is promoting Michaela Hertle, the only Republican on the ballot. Why would big public labor help a Republican? Perhaps because Hertle has withdrawn from the race and endorsed Glazer but remains on the ballot. If she were to draw enough GOP and independent votes in the March 17 top-two primary, the field would be left to two Democrats who support BART workers’ power to strike — Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan.

With union money, the Asian American Small Business Political Action Committee has sent out a mailer to GOP voters that proclaims, “There are just too many Democrats in the state Senate causing partisan gridlock.” As if unions hate having too many Dems in Sacramento.

And guess what. Unlike the folks listed on the PAC’s victory list, Hertle is not Asian. She is “the only businessperson in the race,” countered Bill Wong, the PAC political director and also a Democratic campaign consultant. He denied that his PAC is acting as a spoiler and trying to throw the race to big-labor Dems.

I asked spokesman Carroll Wills why the firefighters union is pushing voters toward a Republican candidate. “We just felt like it was important to make sure that Republicans actually had a choice in that contest,” Wills told me. He also called Glazer a “fake Democrat” — someone who really could put an R after his name.

A fake Democrat? Glazer has been a longtime member of Gov. Jerry Brown’s small and tight-knit inner circle. He worked for state Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti, a Democrat’s Democrat.

Name one issue that’s not a social issue on which Glazer is a Democrat, Wills challenged. OK. In 2012, Glazer helped Brown pass Proposition 30, which raised the state sales and income taxes for Californians earning $250,000 or more.

It’s true Glazer has business support. But that’s because private enterprise needs Democrats who are, as California Chamber of Commerce Veep Marty Wilson put it, “reform-minded” and “will stand up to the unions.” The chamber’s JobsPAC has spent more than $180,000 to help elect Glazer, a Democrat who helped push through a big tax increase, because the chamber is desperate to elect Democrats willing to buck the left’s entrenched interests.

But unlike big labor, big business isn’t trying to mislead the voting public. Wilson looks at the Hertle mailer as “a typical underhanded union trick that’s not going to work.”

Email Debra J. Saunders at [email protected].

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