As we noted in our April 1 editorial, we began interviewing candidates in the June 5 primary this week. We started by sitting down with those in the 2nd District congressional race.
What stands out is that everyone has a different theory about how this race — in a newly drawn district that stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, crossing six counties — is going to play out given how the rules have changed. The fall contest will feature the top two finishers rather than a traditional race between the top Democrat and the top Republican, which, frankly hasn’t been much of a contest in 20 years.
Retired professor Mike Halliwell of Cotati projects that if the votes from Democrats spread out evenly among Dems, much as it did when Rep. Lynn Woolsey first won in 1992, he and fellow GOP candidate Dan Roberts could end up being the top two.
Hmmm. Maybe. But I wouldn’t bank on it.
The prevailing opinion is that this is a race for second place. Assemblyman Jared Huffman has the most name recognition, the most money and most of the key political endorsements, including that of Rep. Mike Thompson, who represented the northern reaches of the 2nd District before redistricting. Thompson has been campaigning with Huffman in those areas.
But it could be a different story in the fall if someone like Stacey Lawson takes silver in June. Lawson, a San Rafael businesswoman and Harvard Business School graduate who did well in private industry and is now looking to serve in Congress, got a late start but is keeping pace with Huffman on the fundraising front. Both may end up spending more than $1 million just in the June 5 primary. Should they both be in a runoff, they each could end up spending twice that — and it could end up getting nasty as they battle to see who is the more moderate candidate.
Both have strong liberal credentials. Huffman has the legislative experience, but Lawson has strong support from East Coast funders. Ultimately this could become a gender battle as Lawson has the backing of Emily’s List and other organizations that want to see this remain, as Petaluma City Councilwoman Tiffany Renee calls it, a “woman’s seat.”
This has become something of an issue across the nation. The Economist magazine notes that “even though a record number (of women) are running for the Senate, women are competing in fewer than a third of congressional races this year.” We’re reprinting this column on Monday. Look for it on page B5.
- Paul Gullixson