Baker had won the primary where three Democrats, particularly Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer and Sbranti, ran bruising campaigns against each other. Sbranti edged into second place and the November runoff while long-time Danville councilman Newell Arnerich finished fourth. Baker held serve with Republicans in the primary and then likely won the significant majority of the decline-to-state voters to pull out the win in a district than leans Democrat.
Non-district interests poured millions into the campaign where expenditures had totaled $3.5 million entering the last week. Sbranti's campaign bought commercials on the World Series games for a total of almost $350,000.
Sbranti carried Alameda County by a 51-49 margin, while Baker won the Contra Costa cities by a 54-46 margin (home turf for Glazier and Arnerich). Arnerich ended up endorsing Sbranti, while Glazier wrote a Facebook post favorable to Baker.
In the end, district voters may have decided that his deep ties to the state teachers' union, which already has tremendous influence on Democrat politicians in Sacramento, may have put Baker over the top.
Tuesday's results were as expected in the 11th Congressional District, where state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier won by a 2-1 margin to succeed retiring 40-year Congressman George Miller. DeSaulnier's successful campaign leaves an opening in the state Senate for the final two years of his term that will prompt a special election.
Expected termed out Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo to throw her hat in the ring for that race. She likely would face Assembly colleague Susan Bonilla.
Pleasanton voters soundly approved of the current City Council's policies, returning Mayor Jerry Thorne to office for a second term by more than a two-thirds margin over Matt Morrison and re-electing Kathy Narum to council with more than one-third of the vote. She will be joined by former planning commissioner Arne Olson can who finished second by a five points over Olivia Sanwong.
Newcomer George Bowen, who built his campaign on an anti-growth theme as did Morrison, grew 20 percent of the vote, finishing about a point behind Sanwong. For Morrison, it was two overwhelming losses within a few months?he finished last in a six-way race for the Zone 7 water district Board of Directors in June.
Voters gave an interesting split decision in the race for two seats on the school board. Incumbent Joan Laursen drew almost 29 percent of the vote, while her colleague Jeff Bowser, who earlier in the year lost a primary bid for county superintendent, ran fourth in the four-person race. Bowser and Laursen signs were frequently together on lawns around town and they held a combined election night party at the Tri-Valley Democratic headquarters, but voters readily separated them.
That opened the way for parent and IT manager Mark Miller to take the second spot with 25.2 percent. Citizens divided their votes with Laursen receiving 28.8 percent, while fourth place Bowser grabbed 22.8, just behind Paige Wright at 22.9.
One new member is unlikely to change the direction of the board, but a fresh perspective often can be helpful.