Anti-Houston poll hits Contra Costa

Guy Houston

A telephone poll featuring highly critical questions about the political and professional career of GOP Assemblyman Guy Houston hit Contra Costa County a few days ago.

Based on the questions as described to me by several participants, the survey was obviously intended to gather data about voter attitudes of Houston and his plans to challenge in June 2008 his former aid and Contra Costa County Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho. The poll also included the potential candidacy of East Bay Regional Park District Trustee Beverly Lane, who has said she is considering entering the race.

The pollster told participants that Houston had uprooted his wife and children repeatedly in pursuit of his political career. The survey also referenced a civil suit against the lawmaker alleging that he defrauded the elderly in a Ponzi-style investment scam.

Ed Wohlers of Walnut Creek says he stopped the pollster after the questions turned “very biased,” he said. “I said I wouldn’t answer loaded questions.”

Houston did move from Dublin to Livermore and then to San Ramon in order to become a resident of the Assembly district in which he was seeking office. But Houston has adamantly denied any wrongdoing related to the lawsuit and recently settled the case, although he requested that the settlement remain secret.

Mike Carter of San Ramon questioned the validity of the data produced from such a poll.

“There was a lot of bias in the questions,” Carter said. “It became very obvious that the poll was slanted in favor of Piepho.”

Candidates often commission early polls — if they have enough money — to help them craft their campaign messages and identify their opponents’ weaknesses.

Piepho is not involved in this poll, however. She has told folks that her campaign was not responsible for the survey after several people called her office to complain about its negative content.
Mary Nejedly Piepho

Who was behind it? We probably won’t officially know until the party involved files a campaign expenditure report. (Under the law, anyone who spends $1,000 or more on a campaign activity must disclose it.)

But the poll questions certainly suggest that someone out there is contemplating a major attack on Houston if he runs for supervisor.

As you may recall, Houston will term out of the Assembly in 2008. He could run for Senate District 7, which is Contra Costa County, but it’s a heavily Democratic district. He also considered running for Congress against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, but decided against it.

Critics have denounced Houston for running against Piepho, a friend and fellow Republican, but his advocates say the assemblyman has superior governing skills and experience.

But if the tone of this poll is any indication, this could be a nasty election.

Photos taken from the official government web sites of Piepho and Houston.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen