The state redistricting committee threw a wrench in the careers of politicians throughout California this summer by redrawing the lines. As a result, one unexpected race will pit two local, union-friendly Democrats—Jim Beall and Joe Coto—against each other in the newly established 15th State Senate District. In what should be considered a first step out of the starting blocks, Beall appears to have an early advantage in the race (and not just because Coto’s campaign website is still under construction). For the first time, the redistricting committee awarded San Jose its own district more or less, giving the city’s voters serious sway over the race. Meanwhile, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Campbell must suffer the indignity of coming along for the ride. Beall gets a leg up having represented about 45 percent of these people during his time in the Assembly, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and San Jose City Council. But in a double-edged sword perfectly suited to political theater, one of Beall’s biggest strengths—labor support—could also end up being his biggest weakness. After all, Beall’s advocacy for foster kids and mental health is admirable but not always financially advantageous. But with pension reform possibly accompanying the district race in the June 2012 primary, Coto—also a recipient of union largesse in the past—could leverage that labor backing against Beall. It’s far too soon to count Coto out, and a big reason is he has Capitol support, which often results in capital support. During his six years in Sacramento, which ended in 2010, Coto developed a reputation as someone who is amiable and a relationship builder. One thing that could hurt him, though, is new district lines resulted in a drop in Latino voters.