Dan Walters

Dan Walters: California governor’s aide picks fight with unions

Dan Walters
Dan Walters

Steve Glazer has seen politics up close as a veteran campaign consultant, most notably as the manager of Jerry Brown’s comeback election as governor three years ago.

That familiarity, one might think, would breed contempt, but instead, Glazer yearns to join the ranks of the elected. He’s already an Orinda city councilman and wants to serve in the state Assembly.

Glazer’s opening comes via term limits. Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, will be forced to give up her seat next year, and Glazer wants to succeed her in the 16th Assembly District, which covers the affluent suburbs along the Interstate 680 corridor in Contra Costa County.

The already unusual specter of a campaign manager wanting to become a legislator becomes even odder as Democrat Glazer seeks office in a strongly Democratic district by positioning himself as an outspoken adversary of California’s very powerful labor unions.

After managing Brown’s campaign – and while still an unpaid Brown adviser – Glazer also became a consultant to the California Chamber of Commerce on 2012 election strategy.

The chamber made a major effort to elect business-friendly Democrats and had some notable successes, including backing two Democrats who knocked off Democratic incumbents.

That effort earned Glazer the enmity of unions. Earlier this year, the California Labor Federation blacklisted Glazer, pollster Jim Moore and four other consultants for their work on the two successful incumbent challenges that elected Marc Levine and Richard Bloom to the Assembly.

The statewide labor organization put them on its “do not hire” list for “two campaigns in 2012 that directly attacked labor unions and caused damage to the labor movement.”

“I was proud to support independent, locally based Democratic leaders against the hand-picked Sacramento politicians,” Glazer responded. “Their victory against entrenched interests is a step forward for a Capitol that is polarized and limited in its ability to solve problems.”

Glazer’s feud with unions is escalating. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a California Teachers Association leader, is his chief rival, and Glazer is making a threatened Bay Area Rapid Transit strike his issue, calling for a state ban on transit worker strikes.

“BART riders are in the crosshairs of this bargaining brinkmanship,” Glazer tweeted Wednesday as a strike became probable. “It is unnecessary, it is wrong, and it needs to be changed.”

He insists that his position has nothing to do with his Assembly campaign and told the Contra Costa Times he is merely “trying to do the right thing,” citing other states’ bans on transit worker strikes.

Whether the “right thing” or political ploy, Glazer’s stance makes the 16th AD a major battleground next year as he gets business support and unions pour money into Sbranti’s campaign.