How does a Bay Area Republican survive? Act like a Democrat

By Holly Honderich

Catharine Baker calls herself pro-choice, pro-environment and pro-gun control. As the only Republican to hold partisan office in the decidedly liberal Bay Area, it may be the only way she can hang on.

Since she was first elected in 2014, the East Bay assemblywoman has split with the GOP on issues that define it nationally and has sought to distance herself from the man who now controls the Republican Party, President Trump. Her tenure in Sacramento has been marked by frequent excursions across the aisle to work with Democrats.

“That’s one of the strongest signatures of my record: independence from parties and interest groups,” Baker said. “I feel I’m one of the most effective members of the Legislature that way.”

But now, Baker is running for re-election against an actual Democrat, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. A law professor and first-time candidate, Bauer-Kahan questions whether Baker is really all that moderate and is working to tie her more closely to the Republican Party, in hopes of dislodging the GOP from the lone elective office it holds in the Bay Area.

Sarahbeth Maney / Special to the Chronicle

“I do respect choosing the best person – and that can transcend party lines – but then it does come down to the issues,” Bauer-Kahan said. “I just couldn’t stand by when my representative wasn’t voting my values.”

The demographics of a district that runs through suburbs from Walnut Creek to Livermore would appear to favor Bauer-Kahan: Democrats hold a 14-point registration advantage over Republicans. But Baker has defied those odds twice, and she points to a glowing tribute from Gov. Jerry Brown as proof she deserves a third term. To read the full story, click here.

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