It’s (special) Election Day in California.
Voters in pockets of the state will go to the polls to fill three seats in the Senate that became vacant after their former occupants were elected to Congress in November.
The contest capturing the most attention is playing out across the East Bay Area suburbs, where labor-backed Democrats Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan are tangling with business-friendly Democrat Steve Glazer in the 7th District seat formerly held by now-Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.
Bonilla is a member of the Assembly, where Buchanan served from 2008 through last November. Glazer, a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, ran unsuccessfuly to succeed Buchanan in the overlapping 16th Assembly District last year.
A little-known Republican, Michaela Hertle, also appears on the ballot, but dropped her campaign weeks ago and endorsed Glazer. Still, she’s been the source of much political intrigue across Concord, Walnut Creek and Pleasanton.
Earlier this month, the state Republican Party sued a group purporting to support Hertle, claiming unlawful use of its trademarked elephant logo.
Glazer has charged that the group, the Asian American Small Business PAC, staffed by a Democratic operative and funded by labor groups, is no supporter of Hertle. Its real motivation, Glazer insists, is keeping him from advancing to a possible May 19 runoff.
Glazer, Bonilla and Buchanan raised a combined $755,000 through Sunday. Outside committees funded by businesses and labor unions have spent about $2.4 million.
The other two Senate special elections are for seats centered in Orange County and the Antelope Valley.
In the 37th district previously held by GOP Rep. Mimi Walters, Republican Assemblyman Don Wagner is facing off against former Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach. Wagner has garnered endorsements from Walters as well as Supervisor Michelle Steel and state Sens. Janet Nguyen and Mike Morrell.
And in the race to complete the term of GOP Rep. Steve Knight, Sharon Runner is sure to reach the threshold needed to avoid a runoff given that no candidates stepped up to place their names on the ballot to challenge her (although some special interests aren’t taking any chances.)
Runner, a former assemblywoman who represented the area after winning a Senate special election in 2011, is set to return to the Legislature following a life-saving double lung transplant procedure. She has described herself as “a walking miracle.”
Talking ed: The California Charter Schools Conference, in its 22nd year, brings together thousands of teachers, administrators and other officials at the Sacramento Convention Center. Participants include Republican Assembly leader Kristin Olsen and Assemblyman Marc Levine, who are scheduled to receive Legislators of the Year awards. On Thursday, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber will sit on a panel moderated by commentator Juan Williams.
College agreements: The California Community Colleges Board of Governors and leaders of historically black colleges and universities are signing an agreement guaranteeing transfers from the state’s community colleges so long as students meet certain academic requirements. Among those scheduled to attend the signing, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the chancellor’s office in Sacramento, are the board of governors, Chancellor Brice W. Harris and representatives of the participating black colleges. Dr. George Cooper, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, is scheduled to attend the event.
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.