A day before the election, Bay Area politicos are training their eyes on District 16's contentious Assembly race between Republican incumbent Catharine Baker and Democratic challenger Cheryl Cook-Kallio.
In addition to being one of the most expensive state assembly battles this election, it is also one that signals a pivotal moment in local politics. Should Baker lose her district — which stretches from Livermore in Alameda County to Orinda in central Contra Costa County — the Bay Area will likely be without a Republican lawmaker in the Assembly, state Senate and Congress.
That potential outcome has given Democrats aiming for a super majority cause to celebrate, while sending Republican strategists bristling. Here’s a rundown of the candidates' platforms, as well as potential weaknesses that may hurt their chances on Tuesday.
Issues and Endorsements:
Baker, who raised just under $2.3 million in campaign contributions by October, is fiscally conservative but socially moderate. She snagged the endorsement of The San Francisco Chronicle and the East Bay Times, as well as an exhaustive list of local politicians and organizations.
Her campaign has stressed the importance of bipartisanship and has a record of working across the aisle on legislation. Baker has a mixed record and is not afraid to go against party lines on some major issues, including some stances on gun control. You can see her voting history here.
She received the endorsement of President Barack Obama, Gov. Jerry Brown and Planned Parenthood, as well as the California Teachers Association. Having never run for a statewide office, she does not have a voting record to compare to Baker’s.
Weaknesses: The Trump Effect on Baker
Nationwide, prominent GOP leaders and pundits have expressed concern for down-ballot politicians in the wake of Donald Trump’s candidacy, fearing that the business mogul may squash turnout in critical districts. Baker is one of those down-ballot lawmakers who could suffer as a result.
Although the assemblywoman eked out a victory against Cook-Kallio in the primary race, turnout remains crucial in the Democratic-leaning district.
Matt Shupe, a republican strategist, said the presence of Trump has posed challenges.
"This roller-coaster of a campaign has made modeling voter turnout very difficult at times,” he said. “...Baker has worked hard to get a lot of bi-partisan support, but despite that, turnout still has a significant role to play in every election.”
Baker attempted to distance herself from the real-estate mogul and said she'll be writing in Condoleezza Rice for the presidency. Still, simply sharing a party with Trump has given plenty of fuel to the Cook-Kallio campaign, which has sought to capitalize on a link between the two conservatives.
“Republicans Donald Trump and Catharine Baker oppose equal pay for equal work and oppose common-sense gun laws,” read one Cook-Kallio mailer sent to residents.
In response, Baker told NBC Bay Area that the ad did not align with her voting record and called it “desperate.”
“That was just hyperpartisan — even desperate — tactics on the part of my opponent to change the race from my record, which matches very well with this district and to other issues,” she said.
Baker noted that it would be difficult to predict the impact of Trump on voter turnout, but said it hasn’t affected her campaign’s ground game.
“It’s hard to know how the Presidential race, and who the nominees are, will effect what really happens in California and in particular this district…” she said. “But our campaign strategy is the same as it’s been all along, and that is to really get out the vote.”
Negative Ads, Website Could Hurt Cook-Kallio:
While both campaigns have sent out a flurry of mailers and commercials attacking one another, those against Cook-Kallio have been especially pointed.
Perhaps the most damaging of the advertisements suggests that Cook-Kallio has made backroom deals with Sacramento special interests and lobbyists in exchange for cash. Another alleges that she ditched meetings while serving on Pleasanton’s city council.
Unfortunately for Cook-Kallio, both of those advertisements can be seen on the slyly-titled “CherylCookKallio.net,” a website that is operated by the Baker campaign but, due to name, could easily be confused with Democrat’s official site.
Will Hurd, the campaign manager for Cook-Kallio, called the ads a last-ditch effort to sidetrack voters from Baker’s record.
“Republican Catharine Baker and her conservative allies are trying to distract voters from (Baker's) dismal record on women and the environment," he said. "With Baker’s failing grades from Planned Parenthood, League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, these attack ads are all they have.”
Find out more information:
Gillian Edevane covers Contra Costa County for NBC Bay Area. Contact her at Gillian.Edevane@NBCuni.com.