Rohit Joy

Republicans Guaranteed a Majority on Walnut Creek City Council in 2013

Thanks to Jerry Brown’s recent appointment of Walnut Creek City Councilman Kish Rajan as director Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), Rajan has withdrawn from his race for re-election to the Council.  Councilman Rajan was the only Democrat in this year’s race.

Rajan’s departure has left four candidates competing for three open seats:  Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove, CPA Loella Haskew, Mayor Bob Simmons, and local business owner Justin Wedel.  Grove, Haskew, and Wedel are Republicans, and Simmons is registered decline-to-state.  The two remaining councilmembers, who are not up for reelection until 2014, are decline-to-state Kristina Lawson, and Republican Cindy Silva.

Even if Simmons, the only non-Republican in the race, wins re-election, the remaining two spots are guaranteed to go to Republicans.  If all goes well, and the three Republicans win all three spots, Republicans will have a 4/5 supermajority on the Council.

This is certainly welcome news for Bay Area Republicans, who have seen the party’s share of voter registration decline in nearly every city in the region during the past few years.  In fact, only six Bay Area cities now have more registered Republicans than Democrats, and Walnut Creek is not one of them.

The open question, of course, is which Republicans get elected to the council.  Loella Haskew is pro-choice, and although that may not seem to matter for a local race, it is fairly well-established that pro-choice Republicans tend to be more moderate on other issues as well.  Barry Grove represented his fellow prosecutors in the district attorney’s office during labor negotiations, which will create a conflict of interest when he represents the city in its bargaining with unions.  This very fact caused the Contra Costa Times to pass over Grove for an endorsement in favor of the other candidates.

Although Mayor Simmons is registered decline-to-state, the accomplishments he has touted as part of his campaign reveal his leftward ideological tendencies.  He emphasizes his role as Advisory Board member and former President of the Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation and Co-Founder of Sustainable Walnut Creek.  One area of great concern among Bay Area residents is the push by environmentalists to transform the East Bay cities from family- and car-friendly suburbs to high-density housing centers where residents are stacked-and-packed near transit stations and compelled to walk, bike, and use public transportation to get to work and run errands.  Simmons’s own statements suggest that he will aid and abet, rather than fight, this utopian movement.

This leaves Justin Wedel, the one true conservative Republican in the race.  Justin is the founder of a technology startup company based in Walnut Creek.  His areas of focus are making public employee pensions sustainable and ensuring that all government employees pay their fair share of retirement and healthcare costs, balancing the city budget, and focusing funding on public safety.  All of these, of course, are top priorities for conservatives and Republicans.

Republicans in Walnut Creek are fortunate to be assured of a majority on the Walnut Creek City Council, but what will truly determine how successful we are in advancing our priorities is whether Justin Wedel is elected.