The District 7 state senate race pits incumbent Democrat Steve Glazer, first elected five years ago, against a Republican newcomer, engineer Julie Mobley, who recently served on the Contra Costa County Grand Jury before entering politics.
Glazer, 63, who has held the seat since a special election in 2015 and was re-elected a year later, is looking for his second full term in the California legislature. He believes he has built a solid record that includes working to improve graduation rates in the California State University system, strengthening the state's assault weapons ban, and ending the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products. His role in authoring and passing Proposition 72 in 2018 provided property tax relief to homeowners who improved their residences with rainwater-catching systems that had increased their bills.
"I have been a champion for public education and a defender of our fragile environments, a strong advocate for local control and a protector of civil and human rights," Glazer said. "I believe ... my record of being a fiscally responsive representative is a strong one and one of consideration."
He added that every piece of legislation he has authored has had bipartisan support and was accomplished in partnership with Tri-Valley city leaders and residents.
Mobley, an engineer who formerly worked for Procter & Gamble in Ohio and Clorox in the East Bay before she married and became a full-time mother, said she decided to challenge Glazer to offer voters an alternative voice in the state's heavily Democratic legislature. Her experience serving on the Contra Costa grand jury, she said, helped her to see the problems the region faces.
"I grew up in the Bay Area in the South Bay and have been living in the East Bay for 20 years," Mobley said. "I am concerned about California. I think California needs more balance in Sacramento."
The 52-year-old Danville resident said she knows her chances of beating Glazer aren't good. The district — which represents Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and Sunol in Alameda County, along with 20 cities in Contra Costa County -- is heavily Democratic with just 23% Republican registration. In 2016, Glazer received about 67% of the vote to defeat his Republican challenger, Joseph Rubay, who is now running against Democratic Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan in the 16th District, which represents much of the same area.
The most recent state campaign finance reports showed Glazer with more than $2 million in his account. Mobley’s balance sits at just $4,380.
Mobley said she believes she has a message that can "resonate with more than just Republican voters."
Asked where she placed herself as a Republican — such as whether she was a Trump Republican — Mobley declined to label herself as following any particular party leader, and suggested voters separate the presidential race from local races.
"I'm really running as myself right now," she said. "I would say I'm a fiscal conservative. I'm much more moderate on social issues. I think the solutions to our problems lie somewhere in the middle. I think we can see both sides of the issue. I think that's been lacking because of one-party control."
Mobley listed the state's COVID-19 response, the state's infrastructure, fire suppression and reforming policing as some of her top concerns. On the pandemic, Mobley said the state's restrictions "have been very inconsistent," with rules allowing residents to congregate in a crowded supermarket or Costco, but not with a few people in a hair or nail salon.
She supports wearing masks and said she agreed with the Bay Area county's decisions for early shutdowns when "we didn't know what we were dealing with.” Now, she said, because there is more testing, more protective gear, and doctors know better how to treat the illness, communities "should aggressively be trying to reopen with safety precautions."
She stated that parents should have the option to decide whether to send their children to school, because every campus is different.
"Why can't we be creative?" she said, adding that schools could schedule students with morning and afternoon sessions.
Glazer has been an outspoken lawmaker on the state's COVID-19 response, sometimes disagreeing with the decisions of his own party's governor to prevent the virus's spread.
Early on, Glazer held 20 telephone town halls with experts to educate the public about the virus, as well as navigate life in lockdown, including precautions taken at supermarkets.
Glazer noted that, for the most part, Gov. Gavin Newsom has done a good job. But Glazer published several opinion articles with suggestions for steps the state should take to reopen.
"I had a different view in some cases," Glazer said. "It was meant to be constructive. We are all in this together. We are not fighting like all the parties in Washington."
In August, Glazer wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that it was clear the state could not successfully reopen "until we crush this virus" and advocated a four-week shutdown. He criticized Newsom's reopening policies, saying they "have left us with neither a healthy public nor a healthy economy.” He said the state was stuck in an "endless netherworld, where it is not safe to open further, but it seems, to some, difficult to justify closing down again."
He suggested following the lead of other countries with strict lockdowns and advocated extending unemployment benefits and increasing assistance to small businesses to get residents through it.
"We need to return to a strictly enforced shelter-in-place policy until the number of cases is so low that each new one can be identified and the people who test positive can be isolated to prevent them from spreading it further,” Glazer wrote.
Glazer also advocates random testing — or "community surveillance" — where authorities collect specific data from groups of people, such as from nail care and hair providers, and riders on public transportation, to track how the virus spreads. He added that the COVID battle should be fought regionally, not by county.
Glazer said summer shutdowns could have improved the number of current infections and paved the way for children to go back to school.
"Where we are today is much more encouraging," he added, further noting the public must continue exercising proper personal behavior.
On other issues, Mobley said she wants to improve the state's infrastructure, including its power grid, saying "it's crazy" that rolling blackouts occur in the tech capital of the state.
Mobley also said California needs to focus on climate change. As a grand jury member, she helped prepare a report on wildfire preparedness in Contra Costa County, suggesting investing in technology, such as satellites, drones and cameras, to better predict fires' spread and to create evacuation plans. She said forests need to be thinned to create fuel breaks between towns and Cal Fire needs more resources.
Glazer added that he plans to continue to work on educational issues and to protect open spaces, including the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area, for conservation. A bill he co-authored in 2019, was vetoed by the governor.