An East Bay Assembly district that hosted a bitter intra-Democrat battle last cycle ranks at the top of the party’s 2016 election target list, according to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount.
In a press release, Rendon called the 16th Assembly District “the top pick-up opportunity for Democrats in the Assembly” and pledged to give Democrat and former Pleasanton City Council member Cheryl Cook-Kallio “all the support she needs” to defeat incumbent Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin.
Rendon told The Bee in early March that “I expect to pick up at least a seat” in November and said the party has “a good shot” at winning back Baker’s seat.
Baker’s 2014 victory offered a rare bright spot for California Republicans struggling to rebuild their diminished ranks. Baker emerged from a deeply divisive primary that pitted Democrat Tim Sbranti against fellow Democrat Steve Glazer, now a state senator. The intraparty struggle that attracted a deluge of independent spending from pro-Glazer business groups and from labor groups determined to defeat Glazer, who angered unions with his support of a ban on Bay Area Rapid Transit strikes.
While registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by around 20,000 in the 16th, a sizable chunk of voters without a party preference put it more in play. Baker has built a balanced record, repeatedly registering as one of the only Republicans to cross party lines and join Democrats in supporting contentious bills.
Other potential pickups for Democrats include seats where Republicans toppled incumbents in 2014, like the the 65th Assembly District seat occupied by Assemblywoman Young Kim, R-Fullerton, and the 66th Assembly District seat held by Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Manhattan Beach. Rendon told The Bee he expected to defeat Hadley.
Efforts to add to Democratic numbers could be complicated by threats to incumbent Democrats by members of their own party, notably Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino. Defending sitting members would drain money and resources from going on the offensive against Republicans like Baker.