No less a Democrat than Gov. Jerry Brown praises Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, the last Republican to represent a slice of the Bay Area in the Legislature.
But as they seek a two-thirds majority, Assembly Democrats and the California Democratic Party have poured $527,000 since Oct. 1 into the campaign to unseat Baker, a Dublin attorney seeking her third two-year term.
Consultant Bill Wong, who oversees Assembly Democrats’ campaigns, said Baker votes with her party 80 percent of the time and that her suburban East Bay district would be better served by Baker’s opponent, environmental attorney Rebecca Bauer-Kahan.
“Any Democrat is going to have a better record than she does on choice, guns, and the environment,” Wong said.
Baker breaks with her party by criticizing President Donald Trump, supporting abortion rights and gun control. She carried legislation on behalf of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a rarity for a Republican.
She sides with her party on taxes and public employee pensions, stands that earn her the enmity of organized labor.
On other noteworthy measures, Baker was one of a handful of Republicans who joined Democrats by voting in 2015 to require that school kids get vaccinated, and in 2016 to authorize doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to people who have only a few months to live, the death with dignity bill.
Citing her votes for environmental bills, Brown gave a testimonial for use in her mailers: “Catharine Baker is the kind of independent leader we need in Sacramento.”
Former Sen. Lois Wolk, a Davis Democrat who co-authored the death with dignity bill that Baker supported, said she was disheartened that Democrats were seeking to oust Baker.
“I am very saddened by the fact that the Democrats would put so much money into the race against her. She has been a good colleague,” Wolk said.
Democratic Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda cited her support for his legislation this year requiring greater disclosure in small business loans,
“Independent-minded Republicans can help Democrats achieve our goals,” Glazer said. “We should be supportive of legislators who bridge the partisan divide.”
Baker has her resources. She has outspent Bauer-Kahan, $1.8 million to $1.3 million. Outside campaign operations funded by businesses that see Baker as a moderate have pummeled Bauer-Kahan with $1.1 million worth of mailers and other campaign efforts.
Baker shrugged off the campaign as politics as usual.
“Think about what Sacramento is right now. As soon as you arrive you are divided into two tribes,” Baker said in an interview, a reference to partisanship. “Nothing in politics surprises me, except when I go to the mailbox and learn new things about myself.”