Chad Walsh, Independent, Advances to Run-off in Silicon Valley

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Former Republican turned independent Chad Walsh automatically advanced to the November election as the only challenger to Democratic incumbent Paul Fong in the newly created California Assembly District 28. With no other candidates in the race and all precincts reporting, Walsh won 46.3% of the vote in yesterday’s primary election.

District 28 is in the heart of Silicon Valley and includes Cupertino, Los Gatos, and large parts of San Jose.

Walsh is an intellectual property lawyer and current president of the West Valley-Mission Community College District. Fong has been a member of the Assembly since 2008 and was re-districted in the recent revamping of legislative maps.

District 28 is 43% Democratic, 27% Republican, and 28% no preference and is more conservative than Fong’s previous Assembly District 22. As an incumbent, Fong enjoys higher voter recognition than Walsh and is still favored to win in November. But both Walsh and Fong will need to appeal to independents to insure a victory.

Walsh makes a point of saying he is non-partisan and wants to work collaboratively to solve California’s problems, something which will appeal to independents. Fong is a liberal Democrat. Walsh’s website is easily more modern which considering the district covers Silicon Valley, this should be a prerequisite.

A key campaign issue likely to endure through November is pension reform. Walsh favors major reform and accuses Fong of being beholden to public unions. Fong has attacked Walsh for being a Republican in everything but name and says pension reform must be carefully thought out so those eligible for small pensions don’t get hurt along with those who have gamed the system.

Walsh focuses on making Silicon Valley more job-friendly with specific ideas about tax policy and eliminating red tape that may seem arcane to outsiders. Fong highlights protecting the environment and healthcare. Both support rebuilding the educational system (as does most everyone.)

Fong has numerous heavyweight endorsements, including from the Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, State Controller John Chiang, and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. Walsh lists no endorsements on his website but is backed by icPurple, a Super PAC that is backing independent candidates. Super PACs are permitted to raise unlimited funds for candidates so long as they do not coordinate tactics and strategy with the campaign.

California will be a battleground of Super PACs this general election campaign season due to Democrats aiming to take back control of the House and securing a veto-proof majority in the State legislature. Thus, the Walsh-Fong race is an important one to watch. If Fong loses, it makes things harder for the Democrats to control Sacramento.

Walsh can win if he appeals to independents in large numbers in order to close the nearly 8-point gap this primary election has revealed. It is not an insurmountable goal. Otherwise, the large number of registered Democrats will tilt election, once again, to Fong.