East Bay Times editorial
Catharine Baker won election to the state Assembly in 2014 by promising to work in a bipartisan fashion representing the centrist voters of her East Bay district.
And she's done just that, bringing a mix of fiscal restraint and social consciousness to the job. She's smart, articulate and refreshingly independent and thoughtful.
Voters should send Baker back to Sacramento for a second term. They should ignore the onslaught of hit pieces in what will be one of the state's costliest legislative races.
Baker's Republican registration in this swing district makes her a target. Never mind that she's pro-choice, anti-tobacco, pro-vaccine and supports end-of-life options.
Don't expect to hear that in the attack ads because it won't fit into the demonizing narrative. Baker succeeded a Democrat in 2014 and now labor unions and the party want the seat back to ensure a two-thirds majority and the ability to unilaterally pass tax increases.
No party dominates the 16th District, which stretches from Orinda to Livermore. Registration splits 39 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans, with 23 percent having no party preference.
In other words, it's the centrists who will determine the outcome. For them, this should be an easy decision -- as it was for us.
For starters, Baker's opponent, retired teacher and former Pleasanton Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, refused to show up with the incumbent to answer our questions.
But when the candidates met for a League of Women Voters forum, the differences were quickly apparent. Baker supports outlawing BART strikes; Cook-Kallio danced around answering the question.
Baker believes the temporary tax increase voters approved four years ago to help the state recover from the recession should be just that, temporary. Cook-Kallio wants to extend it.
Then there are Cook-Kallio's whoppers. She claims that while on the Pleasanton City Council she worked on pension reform and left the city with no debt. While the entire council did negotiate cost-saving pension changes, the city still has $161 million of unfunded liabilities for pensions and workers' retiree health care. That's pure debt.
Cook-Kallio also claims that when she left office in 2012 after an unsuccessful bid for mayor, the city had $178 million of unrestricted reserves. Actually, most of that money was committed for projects, repairs and replacing aging equipment.
Meanwhile, Baker wisely endorses Gov. Jerry Brown's 2016 budget plan to pay down debt rather than start up new ongoing programs. At the same time she opposes his fiscally wasteful legacy plan for high-speed rail.
It's that discerning and fiscally responsible approach that makes Baker an excellent representative of the 16th District.