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What a Week: Primary election takeaways, Part II

Editorial: While I already highlighted the big-ticket outcomes with the sheriff-coroner, district attorney and countywide turnout data, there's so much more to unpack from throughout the Tri-Valley. So let's jump back in...
Jeremy Walsh_2022
Jeremy Walsh, editor.

Apologies for not following up to my last print column recapping the primary election results with an expanded online version, as I promised in the paper. Such is life during a busy professional (so much breaking news) and personal (7-month-old son at home) time of my life.

While I already highlighted the big-ticket outcomes with the sheriff-coroner, district attorney and countywide turnout data, there's so much more to unpack from throughout the Tri-Valley. So let's jump back in.

The most intriguing of the "other" results was Alameda County superintendent of schools. 

Superintendent-elect Alysse Castro overcame an Election Night deficit (48.29% to 51.71%) as more ballots were tabulated to ultimately leapfrog two-term incumbent Superintendent L.K. Monroe. The certified final tally was 53.17% for Castro and 46.83% for Monroe.

Castro, an Alameda resident and San Francisco Unified official, was aided mightily by strong backing from education unions -- plus the bad press Monroe got in the spring over questions about how pandemic-relief stipends were disbursed in the Office of Education.

Now the next time a county education controversy comes to pass, Pleasanton will have a strong voice on the Board of Education: Cheryl Cook-Kallio, the former city councilmember and retired teacher.

Cook-Kallio outgained her two opponents combined to win the open seat, claiming an important decisive victory with 53.14% of the overall vote compared to inexperienced DiemHa "Kate" Dao at 26.29% and controversial Eric Dillie at 20.57%.

You may ask: Why are those percentages slightly different than what is posted on the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office website?

Well, believe it or not, that's because Alameda County Board of Education Trustee Area 7 actually appears on a few Contra Costa County ballots -- 178 to be exact (though only 55 voted in this primary). Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District includes a sliver of the Tassajara Valley across the county border, so I had to combine data from the two counties myself to get the true final tally.

The other contest we followed closely ended up not really being a competitive one, probably as expected as one candidate did not run an active campaign. For Zone 7 Water Agency, incumbents Dennis Gambs (26.97%), Sarah Palmer (22.55%) and Olivia Sanwong (22.47%) won terms, along with newcomer Dawn Benson (21.78%), a former DSRSD board member. The other challenger, Todd Shinohara, garnered just 6.23%.

Of all the races across our two counties, the closest actually seemed to be one of the least controversial on paper -- Measure G, renewal of Contra Costa County's vehicle abatement program and associated fee. It needed a two-thirds supermajority to pass, and cleared the bar by less than a percent with 67.38% Yes to 32.62% No.

Embattled Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer, who ran an effective signage- and ad-heavy campaign, fended off qualified challenger Floy Andrews quite comfortably, 56.34% to 43.66%.

Considering the focus nationwide on local election overseer positions, for better or for worse, the runoff for Contra Costa County clerk-recorder will be vital -- and likely very heated -- come November.

Kristin Connelly, a member of the Acalanes Union High School District Governing Board and president/CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council, finished first in the four-candidate primary with 33.90%. She will face second-place Vicki Gordon (23.52%), a former Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board member voted out of office amid a districtwide cloud in 2020.

Oh, and though not directly representing Tri-Valley areas, both counties had supervisor seats on the ballot.

In Alameda County, Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan (41.01%) and Alameda Vice Mayor Lena Tam (28.13%) advanced out of the four-candidate primary to a November runoff for the District 3 seat of late-supervisor Wilma Chan (now held by Dave Brown on appointment). District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle won another term unchallenged.

In Contra Costa County, a runoff for District 4 will see Pleasant Hill City Councilman Ken Carlson (26.73%) against BART Director Debora Allen (25.62%); the pair were clustered close with Concord City Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer (24.02%) in third. District 1 Supervisor John Gioia earned another term with 85.36%.

I'll never really understand why the Tri-Valley's state senator, Steve Glazer, ran for state controller. He finished fourth overall, but was the No. 3 Democrat (11.1%) and didn't even win in his hometown Contra Costa County (25.1%, good for third place).

The general election will see Republican Lanhee Chen (37.2%) and Democrat Malia Cohen (22.7%).

There will be one State Assembly race to watch in November and one not so much.

With District 20 up for grabs, Dublin City Councilman Shawn Kumagai earned a spot in the runoff with 23.9%, second place behind fellow Democrat Liz Ortega (32.2%) in the four-candidate primary. The fall could be influenced by how the supporters of third-place Democrat Jennifer Esteen decide to vote -- not to mention whom the union and community groups back.

Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) coasted in the primary, at 66.6% to Republican challenger Joe Rubay's 33.4%. We could see the same in the general, if the 2020 election when these same two squared off is any indication.

And in the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent Democrat Eric Swalwell easily took first (63.6%) in a seven-candidate primary for redrawn District 14. He will have a rematch with Republican Alison Hayden (10.3%), whom Swalwell trounced in 2020.

And up the road in the 10th Congressional District, Democrat Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (84.0%) will face Michael Ernest Kerr of the Green Party (14.9%). They were the only two names on the ballot including the San Ramon Valley, but a Republican write-in candidate earned 1.1%.

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.