June 2012 Election
California State Senate and the Sandre Swanson Problem.
Since 1970 there has been an informal Berkeley-Oakland progressive alliance/coalition first centered upon the two offices won that year, Congress and the Berkeley/Oakland Assembly District, plus organizational and individual supporters.  (Detractors called it "the Dellums Machine").  In reality neither Congressman Dellums nor anyone else controlled how people behaved in this Coalition.

Initial electoral goals were obvious: defeating Republicans and conservative Democrats, picking up additional offices over the years.  That was followed by general unity on behalf of a progressive agenda, plus making new allies beyond Berkeley and Oakland.

For 20 years (1976-1996) Assemblyman Tom Bates was one coalition pillar, along with Congressman Dellums, who served from 1971 until resigning in 1997.  His logical  protege and successor, State Senator Barbara Lee, won and replaced Dellums.

Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA) and the people it elected, especially Loni Hancock, winning as Councilmember in 1971 and 1975, later Mayor in 1986 and 1990, were a key part of this coalition for decades on the Berkeley side.  The marriage of Loni Hancock and Tom Bates was an event that went beyond coalition politics. 

Term limits, a conservative state initiative, passed, and had a severe effect upon members of the California State Assembly and State Senate.  Tom Bates was termed out, followed for six years by his chief of staff, Dion Aroner.  (1996-2002).  After she was termed out, Loni Hancock served in the Assembly, 2002-2008.  Loni, termed out for the Assembly, was then elected to the State Senate in 2008, and her re-election in 2012 was considered routine, after which she would be termed out yet again.

Sandre Swanson was a "lifer" for 30 years in the Ron Dellums/Barbara Lee Congressional office, rising to District Director and Chief of Staff.  After being defeated for elective office more than once,  he finally won the Assembly district south of Berkeley in 2006.  Sandre, termed out in 2012, did the unthinkable: declaring his candidacy against Loni Hancock for her State Senate seat. 

Among Loni supporters in Berkeley, this suggested that Sandre Swanson had lost his mind.  One essential element of coalition politics was for progressives not to run against each other, something Sandre ought to have learned long ago.  We were disgusted with him.  (No incumbent within the coalition had ever been challenged by another coalition person until Sandre's candidacy.) 

Both locally and among California Democratic Party leaders, it became a priority to achieve Swanson's withdrawal.  Democrats were successfully aiming at vulnerable Republicans in the Legislature, and did not want any money wasted on an avoidable fight between Loni and Swanson.  (Another idiotic state initiative had abolished party primaries, so this wasteful race would be conducted in both June and November, making things even worse.)  And Loni was nearly certain to win, with rock solid Democratic Party support plus personal popularity, one more reason for Swanson to quit.

So negotiations were conducted over what ransom Sandre Swanson wanted to receive in exchange for his withdrawal.  Turned out that Swanson settled for Loni's endorsement in 2016, when he could run for an open State Senate seat.  That deal became public, Swanson dropped out, and Loni was easily re-elected.  Sandre Swanson ended up with a job as Deputy Mayor of Oakland, appointed by Mayor Jean Quan.  So he's not unemployed while waiting for 2016. 

The only "loser" was Loni's successor in the Assembly, Nancy Skinner, her obvious successor for the State Senate as well.  Nancy will be termed out in 2014 after her 2012 re-election.  Even without an endorsement from Loni she expected and deserved, Nancy Skinner may run for the State Senate in 2016 against Sandre Swanson and others.  (This happened previously for State Senate as an open seat, two coalition people splitting the progressive vote, and thus electing Don Perata, the most conservative candidate.)

A term limits revision has passed, allowing newly elected members of the California Legislature to spend more time in either the Assembly or State Senate.  This reduced threat of being termed out might eliminate the new Assembly members replacing both Sandre Swanson and Nancy Skinner from running for the State Senate in 2016.  

It should be noted that against Loni, many supporters of the Berkeley City Council minority would likely have embraced Sandre Swanson.  They stand outside the traditional coalition, opposing not just Mayor Tom Bates and his council allies, but also rejecting both Loni Hancock and Nancy Skinner for their connections to the Mayor.  What I still consider to be a civil war was fought on many fronts in November 2012.



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