Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Buchanan beats out Wilson, steals Houston seat

In a costly upset for the Republicans, Democrat Joan Buchanan has won the race for the Bay Area's last remaining GOP-held seat in the state legislature.

The Assembly District 15 contest between Buchanan, a veteran board member in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, and Abram Wilson, the popular Republican mayor of San Ramon, was one of the most expensive and hardest fought Assembly races in the state this election season.

With 97 percent of the votes counted early Wednesday, Buchanan appears to have prevailed by a nearly six percentage point margin.

The 15th district, which stretches from Pleasanton through the San Ramon Valley and East Contra Costa into San Joaquin County, also includes parts of Sacramento County.

Voter returns show Buchanan led in all four counties, with her biggest coup of the night taking place in San Joaquin County. The region makes up only a small portion of the total district, but Buchanan captured a whopping 66.3 percent of the vote in San Joaquin — 4,103 votes to Wilson's 2.089 votes.

The bulk of the district is in Contra Costa County, where Buchanan received 63,929 votes to Wilson's 58,215 votes, or 52.4 percent of the total.

In Alameda County, Buchanan received 15,622 votes to Wilson's 13,846 votes, or 52.9 percent of the total.

In Sacramento County, where 138 of 140 precincts had been counted by early Wednesday, Buchanan captured 15,751 votes to Wilson's Advertisement14,473 votes, or 52.2 percent of the total.

Buchanan's victory may have been portended by a sharp shift in voter registration numbers that occurred during the past year in the once predominantly conservative district. As recently as last week, Democrats were enjoying a several percentage point voter advantage in San Ramon and other former GOP strongholds in the East Bay suburbs.

Both the state GOP and Democratic parties invested heavily in the race for the soon-to-be-vacated District 15 seat, which is occupied by termed-out Repubican Assemblyman Guy Houston.

The seat, which Wilson supporters called a "symbolic" one for Bay Area Republicans, was one of several GOP-controlled seats Democrats managed to steal Tuesday in their quest to build up majorities in both houses in the state legislature.

But despite the AD15 victory and others, early returns suggest the Democratic party fell short of the major gains feared by the GOP.

Wilson, a retired investment banker, was elected to his first City Council term in 1999. Buchanan, a retired Delta Dental executive from Alamo, was elected to the school board in 1990.

The two towed their respective party lines on taxes and other issues throughout the campaign, which was rife with mudslinging and accusations of campaign finance breaches.

Wilson has stated repeatedly that he believes new levies would further weaken the state's foundering economy and has signed a pledge to that effect. He opposes building a peripheral canal to divert Sacramento River water to address the state's water crisis and says he favors conservation methods.

Buchanan, who has said she is against taking arbitrary pledges against new taxes, says she believes more public funds will be needed in the long run to address the state's water shortage, gaps in education funding and other issues.

In the final weeks of the race, both parties' claws came out, with the state Democratic party accusing Wilson of missing reporting deadlines for his campaign contributions and Wilson's campaign accusing Buchanan of pandering to unions.

Republicans attacked her for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from labor groups and for her stance that public officials' salaries should not be disclosed.

The California Democratic Party, in turn, criticized Wilson for relying heavily on campaign contributions from the California Republican Party, which has contributed more than $800,000 to date to Wilson's campaign.

The candidates could not immediately be reached for comment early Wednesday.

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  • Buchanan outraises Wilson in Assembly race
  • Battle for last Bay Area Republican-held seat in the state legislature