CD10: Williamson may have to run as write-in

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson

Oprah spiritual adviser, peace activist and New York Times best-selling author Marianne Williamson is ineligible to run as a Democrat in the special 10th Congressional District special election and is exploring a run instead as a write-in candidate.

Election law says you must have been registered as a member of a party at least 90 days in order to run as a candidate for that party. She became a Democrat in June and is not eligible to run as a member of that party, said Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir.

“Ms. Williamson has a lawyer who is calling and asking questions about the write-in process,” Weir said.

Five p.m. today is the deadline for partisan and independent candidates to file for the seat. The deadline to qualify as a write-in candidate is Aug. 18. The special primary election is Sept. 1 and voting by mail will begin the week of Aug. 3.

As a write-in candidate, voters must literally write her name down on the ballot as it will not appear as one of the pre-printed choices. It is a very difficult hurdle for a candidate to overcome, particularly in a low turnout special election.

Williamson, a resident of Hollywood, has written numerous books on spirituality and regularly podcasts from Oprah.com. Williamson recently held a series of listening tours around the district as part of her exploration of a possible run for Congress. Orinda resident Steven Berg attended one of her sessions and sent me this account:

Williamson said that what spurred her on to think about entering  the competitive race was hearing one of the current Democratic candidates say that he had the skills to negotiate with insurance companies, something she said she would not do.   Williamson spoke passionately in support of public financed political campaigns and their potential effect on removing the power of the insurance industry ‘and striking fear in them.’

Williamson spoke repeatedly about what will no doubt be a core theme in her campaign…the need to focus on what she termed “bringing peace, compassion and love to legislation.”

She spoke about her desire to convert Lawrence Livermore Laboratories into a vehicle for peace.  Said Williamson, “Right now 85% of the projects at Livermore are nuclear focused, we need to change them into projects for peace and build a Humanitarian Industrial Complex.”

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Livermore Beware! Post 9/11 she published a rather infamous prayer where she asked everyone to “pray for angels to surround this country with a mystical shield of protection and blessing.” Perhaps she thinks that those 85% of current Livermore Lab scientists and engineers should be replaced with religious mystics who can commune with the angels to help build that mystical shield….

  • Cindy Shannon

    It’s called a tax exempt religious cult and Williamson is its leader! My mother was brainwashed with her pseudo-spiritual double speak when she belonged to her Michigan ‘Church of Today’. Williamson drove the congregation into the ground financially and pushed out as pastor under a cloud of scandal. She’s like a bad check. I can’t believe this flake is thinking of being my representative in congress. I’ll have to move.

  • Zach Levine

    Oy vey…the last thing we need is one more self righteous religious nut in Congress (albeit this one coming from the new-age left). Isn’t what’s going on in Iran a reminder of this? However well intentioned, when religion and politics mix both loose and the people suffer!

  • AJ

    My take on it is that she means we should heed Eisenhower’s warning about the rising “military-industrial” complex (something that keeps on going and going, like the Energizer bunny) – employing good men and women Livermore scientists to invest in its efforts, rather than in efforts to use the same excellent skills in the service of productive investments that are likely to better the country/humankind rather than destroy it.

    Attention, consciousness and (conscience – ousness) rather than unconscious participation can only be a good thing.

    Without a conscious effort to turn it around, we are likely to end up where we are headed. And if it needs angels and blessings to make that happen, I for one, have no objection to inviting their participation…..

  • Cindy Shannon

    Marianne Williamson money quote 1 [from Huffington Post blog]: “This [swine] flu wasn’t created on the level of the body, because no disease is. It was created on the level of the mind, and it is there that we will root it out at the causal level…The Western allopathic medical community is doing everything it can to treat the disease on the external planes, and of course we’re grateful for that. But each and every one of us have work to do on the internal planes, to transform the disease on the level of cause as well as ameliorate whatever effects it has already produced…This thing can be turned around right now, and sent back to the nothingness from whence it came. Each of us needs to stop pretending we’re powerless, use the power in our hearts and work the miracles we’re entitled to.” – see Huffington Post ‘Pray it Away’ blog and read it yourself.

  • AJ

    Cindy, I don’t see your objection –

    What on earth is it in this latest post/quote that you object to? The fact that people, politicians, and American citizens may have internal as well as external responsibilities when it comes to tackling the problems we collectively face?

  • Cindy Shannon

    Marianne Williamson money quote 2: “The path to serenity lies in becoming a modern mystic who sees that everything connects to everything and that every issue [is] a spiritual one, from dry-cleaning mishaps to the Middle East peace process (which will be resolved when Israelis and Palestinians understand their essential oneness)…[you] can even spiritually transcend a wait at the Department of Motor Vehicles, because every person in line is someone we can bless.”

  • Common Tater

    What! We’re supposed to still be heeding a 50-year old warning about the M-I complex?

  • AJ

    So I guess you are saying you are afraid of spirituality in general, as I don’t see anything in any of these quotes to suggest this person should not represent us in congress.

    What more uplifting and (at worst) ultimately harmless comments can you come up with to discredit someone who isn’t even in the race yet, if ever?

  • Arne Simonsen

    Now that’s really funny! She just registered as a Democrat in June? Makes me wonder if she’s ever voted, but I’d sure someone will be checking into that.

    Clearly, we don’t need anyone from “Hollywood” representing the residents of CD-10 – particularly a “spiritual adviser” to Oprah!

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    I’ve read the posts and now I’m channeling the legendary Criswell!

  • Zach Levine

    AJ…You might want to read the superb Mother Jones article “Faith: Marianne Williamson Is Full of It.” as it might give you insights into why Ms. Shannon might have an issue with Williamson becoming our governmental representative … “Offering religion without rules, salvation without sacrifice, the former cabaret singer has remade herself into the perfect priestess for a culture steeped in pop.”

    Like I said earlier…Oy vey!

  • Cindy Shannon

    Marianne Williamson money quote 3: “Although many people may perceive the achievement of mystical union with the divine as an arduous feat, requiring fasting, pilgrimage and mortification of the flesh” [Williamson says] “thirty minutes each morning of quality time with God will do the trick.”

  • AJ

    Wow – I love these comments.

    What’s so interesting to me is that they all are demonstrating the very thing this person seems to warn against, and that is allowing (prejudicial) fear and old, unworkable and unsustainable (but comfortable) habits to constrict our thinking, imagination and sense of possibility before we even know what we are talking about.

    This person hasn’t even spoken publicly (as far as I know) about what she would represent for us in congress and how she would go about doing it, and you are already panning her for comments she made when addressing a very different audience for a radically different purpose, questioning her political commitment because she wasn’t registered as a Dem, and suggesting where she lives means anything about her substance as a person or as a political rep.

    What better advertisement is there for a need for the very thing she speaks about so passionately?

  • Cindy Shannon

    Marianne Williamson money quote 4: “Some men know that a light touch of the tongue, running from a woman’s toes to her ears, lingering in the softest way possible in various places in between, given often enough and sincerely enough, would add immeasurable to world peace.”

  • RF

    This is an organized effort. Notice the first and last names?

    take a look at this:(I am not saying David Harmer is doing this, just an example)


    Now Harmer endorsement page:

    notice the same names?

    You’ll notice the first and last names. Totally out of place for the normal posters on this site. I’m not passing judgment, but this is an oblivious effort to control the message and tone around Williamson.

  • AJ

    Of course this is an organized, fear-mongering effort -I mean what else exists yet as something political-minded people see as a viable alternative?

    Not the issues, I wouldn’t think.

    Some people are just so hopelessly trapped in their scary daydreams and fearful fantasies, they could never permit themselves an open mind, lest reality threaten to set in. If you fan the flames of fear, and you have an agenda to boot, you can perhaps get some sort of short term gain, turn off a few people, think you can win something somehow. As I said before, unsustainable but comfortable old habits.

    If you listen to her proposals, weigh them against the proposals of others and decide against her, that’s one thing. But please dont flood message boards with your personal nightmares….

    Dont know who are going to vote for, Cindy, but I can see it sure wont be Marianne Williamson! 😉

    Good luck, all, as you make your decisions in the coming weeks…

  • Cindy Shannon

    RF, You make me laugh with your ‘they are out to get her’ conspiracy theories! I happen to live in Fairfield and she would become my congressperson which scares the heck out of me as it should any rational, educated, reasoned person. Williamson ruined my mother’s life because SHE IS A NEW AGE NUTCASE & SPIRITUAL OPPORTUNIST. I have little doubt that others have her number also and will speak out.

    Zach, Thx for highlighting the Mother Jones article – even they have her #.

  • Mike F.

    Whatever she represents, at the end of the day she is still a carpet bagger. This is not the “refreshing” I’m looking to find. It’d be fun to see her at a debate, but that would just take time from someone we might want to actually hear from.

  • AJ

    just more demonstrations of the same…

  • Common Tater

    You don’t have to hear a whole speech or eat a whole sandwich to know that they’re bad.

    Spiritual advisor to Oprah? That’s a bad sandwich, folks.

  • AJ

    By the way you sample your food, Tater, quite a few “bad sandwichs” have gotten pretty far in politics who would have gone nowhere “at first bite” –

    Lessee….. body builder and movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, wrestler Jesse Ventura, comedian Al Franken, Hollywood movie actor Ronald Reagan, basketball star Kevin Johnson, to name a few celebrities that initially raised a lot of disbelieving eyebrows and quite a few snickers by those who decided they “didnt have to eat the whole sandwich…” before deciding it was bad.

    Apparently most of the American public likes to eat long after you have pushed yourself away from the table.

  • AJ

    All moot anyway, looks like she’s decided not to run, unless as a write-in long shot.

  • Steve Bloom

    Lisa: “It is a very difficult hurdle for a candidate to overcome, particularly in a low turnout special election.”

    What evidence is this assessment based on? While it’s unarguable that write-in candidacies are tough, I would think the circumstances of this election are probably better for one than would be typical since the number of votes needed to win has been reduced to a minimum (many candidates dividing a low turnout).

    Also, I suspect her appeal would be in large part to people who aren’t typical voters, which means that the other campaigns would have a hard time competing for them. Especially if Oprah comes to campaign for her, Williamson wouldn’t be operating under the same handicap.

  • allen payton

    She should check twice to make sure the County Clerk gives her all the correct paperwork she needs and the proper time frame! 🙂

  • AJ

    Hmm, good idea

    Makes you wonder – who paid the County Clerk off to mislead her the first time, and how much did it cost them, I wonder? 🙂

  • Steve Bloom,

    She is not Barack Obama or Sarah Palin. An election of this type, in a district this heavily democratic, with multiple viable (money, supporters, resume) candidates, a few ambitious and surprising candidates, there is no way in hell a write-in candidate can win this election. I don’t care how much mojo and juju she carries.

    I do believe Mr. Payton has some experience with being a write in candidate, how well did you do, Sir?

  • Common Tater

    Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anywhere in the story that she claimed she was mislead by the County Clerk. Maybe if we read it together it will become clear that she was deliberately misled by a fine county official.

    Ready? Start reading.

  • Cindy Shannon

    CT, In the world of The Leader and her followers they are never at fault…it is always the old fear-mongering western philosophical way of thinking which causes all of us outsiders problems…if we could only see the world through The Leaders eyes, we would come to understand. If the LONG STANDING rules regarding the election don’t serve The Leader or her cult, then it must be the fault of some devious establishment bureaucrat. The facts be damned. It’s all part of the paranoid double-speak that permeates Williamson’s writings. The power is always ‘within you’ except of course when its not – in which case its someone else’s fault – in this case it is the poor County Clerk who must be at fault.

  • AJ

    She didn’t, Tater, that was me waxing less than eloquent with my own paranoid fantasy 😉

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Regarding Steve Bloom’s question about the viability of a write-in candidate in a low turnout election, here’s what the campaign experts tell me.

    In low turnout elections, only the most reliable voters show up and they are far more likely to have strong attachments to a particular party. In fact, the campaign consultants working in this race tell me that they are focusing almost exclusively on reliable voters.

    The idea that Williamson could attract people who don’t typically vote runs counter to conventional wisdom for special congressional elections, particularly one held in late summer.

    Would Oprah really come and campaign for Williamson? I’m not so sure. Oprah has only campaigned for one person that I know of, and that was Barack Obama. But her appearance would certainly draw a lot of media attention to this race and to Williamson’s candidacy, if she pursues it.

  • AJ

    Interesting thoughts, Lisa/Bloom.

    I find it hard to imagine Oprah campaigning for a district election – should a favorite of hers run for president, or governor of a state in which she resides, well then maybe…

    But Mr Bloom raises an interesting point, I think, which is that this is NOT a typical election nor a typical write-in candidate, so experience of the past may not be as applicable as may seem at first blush.

    Remember an awful lot of people, myself included, were CONVINCED that a black man could not win a US presidential election in 2008 –

    The “yes we can” attitude is capturing the public imagination, and if you have never heard MW speak, she can be incredibly inspiring. This is an intellignet, thoughtful, out-of the box woman who is interesting to say the least.

    Of course, people have to get over the “bad sandwich/ rejection prior to investigation” mindset in order to hear her speak in the first place, and that may be her greatest hurdle…

  • allen payton

    Brian Dawson,
    You’re right, as a write-in candidate, she stands no chance of winning. But, she can have an affect on the outcome of who wins the Dem primary.
    While I didn’t win my write-in campaign for Mayor of Antioch last Fall, it was successful in that the incumbent lost and we have a new mayor. I received around 2,300 votes for about 8% of the vote.
    My other write-in campaign in 1998 for the Republican primary, when no one else was running, was successful and put me on the General Election ballot. But, in that one I received about 1,500 votes.
    So, if Ms. Williamson runs and spends a lot of money, she might pull a few thousand votes from the major Dem candidates, probably Buchanan, as the other woman in the race. But, that’s about it.

  • Brian Dawson, Guest Pirate

    Mr. Payton,

    I meant no disrespect in my comment, just so you know. I was just stating that write-in candidates have so much against them, such as voter fatigue and worst of all, a bad memory.

    Sure, Williamson can take votes, but not enough to sway the election. The people who vote for Mark have always voted for mark, same for Joan, and same for Garamendi. Special elections, in summer months, brings out the TB voters, the true believers, the bread and butter, rank and file, no matter how you phrase it, Williamson has no shot.

    Sure, anything can happen Lisa V might retire tomorrow and name me emperor of the Delta or I might become rich over night because gold brick fall from the sky, sure anything can happen. But politics is a science for those of us that work in the arena. The people Lisa Y. talks to are pretty solid political thinkers, they give sound advice.

  • Elwood

    If I was thinking of voting for a candidate, the appearance of Oprah on his/her behalf would put an end to those thoughts, quick-quick.

    On a totally unrelated note, I do like money quote #4.

  • Steve Bloom

    Lisa, if the consultants have data tracking regular Oprah viewers relative to their propensity to vote in this election, I’d love to see it. I say this to illustrate the point that if there were a substantial movement toward Williamson from non-frequent voters, those consultants might not have the data to even know it was happening.

    Occasional bolts of lightning are known to reach down from the sky and carbonize the conventional wisdom. Recall e.g. the Bock/Harris Assembly race in the ’90s. People wanting other examples can contact Mark Penn at his White House office.

    All of that said, the timing of this race is such that Williamson will have to be off the dime immediately to have any chance at all, in particular due to the need to register new voters before the cut-off for the primary. We’ll see if there are any signs of that level of campaign activity in the next week or so.

  • Mary Albertson

    Cindy-I attended Marianne Williamson’s church in Mi. every week, and as far as what she did for the church- she increased the attendance three or four times to 3000 people each Sunday.(Cars backed up to the expressway.)They have about 1000 attending now. She raised at least $1 million(probably more) for the church and got them out of huge debt.(No cult and no scandal) Her positive energy lifted Michigan up and we miss her greatly! We really need her now. Our loss is California’s gain. Her message is love everyone, forgive everyone, and be nonjudgemental of everyone. (Sounds like Jesus’ message to me.) Marianne was given awards for her work with race relations in the Detroit area. She works for all people and cares about all people. I live to give now and spend my time helping abused children who have no voice- Marianne introduced me to this work. She changed our lives for the good and would make a wonderful Representative to Congress.

  • Cindy Shannon

    More revisionist spin from The Leader’s enraptured drones. Everything was great when she was in MI – accept when it wasn’t (3/4 of the church’s staff fired, huge deficits, threats of a schism, lawsuits, etc). Facts be damned when The Leader is involved.

  • AJ

    Churches are known to be notoriously difficult places to conduct any sort of business that depends upon open-minded, rational consideration of issues, due to the easy default to fundamentalist, rigid thinking and to the ease with which accusations of immorality of various kinds can get a toehold – and this is regardless of the “religion” the Church supposedly represents.

    The fact that MW didn’t make it in that world is – in my mind – to her credit.

  • AJ

    And apparently she is still exploring the idea

  • Steve Bloom

    Lisa, just to note that our discussion of the write-in requirements was a little off-track. The code provisions on this are very hard to interpret since they’re scattered in various sections, but the upshot is that Williamson has a clear path to having her name printed on the run-off ballot as an independent as long as she can meet a minimum vote requirement in the primary. (From Section 8605a: “At that direct primary he or she received for that office votes equal in number to 1 percent of all votes cast for the office at the last preceding general election at which the office was filled.”) It’s not a trivial requirement in a low turnout election, but it seems doable.

    It appears that she can’t do this as a Democrat without beating the other Democrats in the primary. The mystery to me is why she didn’t just file as an independent at the outset, unless her paperwork was brought to the Registrar so close to the deadline that it couldn’t be fixed. On the other hand a successful write-in effort would get her some positive attention, so perhaps the delay was intentional.

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    I talked with Steve Weir on this very point earlier today and he tells me that Williamson was registered previously as a Green Party member and would have to run as a write-in Green Party candidate if she obtains the requisite number of signatures by Aug. 18. She cannot run as a nonpartisan unless she was registered as a nonpartisan for at least 90 days.

    In the event she qualifies as a write-in Green Party candidate, she would have to be the top voter-getter in the Green Party to advance to the run-off. But Weir tells me that all independents that attain a minimum number of votes will advance make the run-off.

    Weir also says that the law is vague in some areas with respect to nonpartisan candidates. An Alamo man has filed suit in Supreme Court asking that the court order the state and county to allow him to appear only on the Nov. 3 ballot because he did not have time to submit signatures in lieu of the filing fee in time for the Sept. 1 ballot. Given the fact that the primary is a blanket primary, it seems unlikely that a court would allow the placement of a name only on the runoff ballot.

    You are right about the difficulty of interpreting these laws, though. I rely on Weir although he admits the law is ambiguous in some areas. The various machinations related to this special election have been very interesting!

    Lisa v.

  • Mary Albertson

    The church in Mi. has terminated 6 spiritual leaders in about 14 years.

    Recently, the second of the two ministers, hired after Marianne left, was fired. I was told that he was given no notice and he was escorted out of the church.
    The attendance and donations had decreased, and they were having financial difficulty.

  • Steve Bloom

    Lisa, I’m sure Steve knows what he’s talking about, but having spent another 45 minutes going over the fine print (why am I doing this?), it appears to me that the Legislature didn’t do the best job of communicating an intent to eliminate straight-to-the-general independent candidacies for special elections, or for that matter to clearly provide that they instead ought to be on the primary ballot. Unless Section 8300 can be found to be unambiguously inapplicable, I think Williamson has a shot at it.

    Alternatively, similar to the lawsuit that’s already been filed, she would have a strong equal protection argument since under normal circumstances a candidate would have plenty of time to switch parties prior to qualifying for the ballot.

    “8300. A candidate for any public office, including that of presidential elector, for which no nonpartisan candidate has been nominated or elected at any primary election, may be nominated subsequent to or in lieu of a primary election pursuant to this chapter.”

  • AJ

    (As an off-topic aside to Mary) –

    Sounds like that church in MI is run by people with a limited vision.

    At a time when everyone is “having financial difficulty”, the US taxpayers bail out the Big Three and pay out bonuses to execs, while that church fires its minister “without notice” due to dwinding resources.

    And amidst charges of financial impropriety and irresponsibility, I would bet.

    Sounds like that church is chronically in financial difficulty, but has no clue as to how to solve its problems.

  • AJ

    Re. Steve B and Lisa V exchange –

    Gets more and more interesting every day.

  • Steve Bloom

    I’m glad you’re entertained, AJ, although I’m afraid there’s not much more to say until Williamson does something.

  • AJ

    So – we wait then.

    Personally, I am interested regardless in what unfolds.

  • AJ

    Recent update from the MW camp:

    “Dear Friends,

    Over the last few weeks, I explored the idea of running in District 10’s special Congressional election.

    I can honestly say this was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

    I’ve become convinced, as never before, that America is ready for a new kind of politics – a “whole person” politics that calls on more than a narrow swathe of left brain thinking…that inspires our wisdom, our love, and most particularly our vital participation. I have witnessed what I see as the awakening spirit of American democracy, as person after person has relayed to me their hope — after sometimes never having thought it possible — that politics could be something authentic and truly meaningful in their lives.

    In the final analysis, I didn’t feel that in the time left before the election I could wage a campaign worthy of the energy people were willing to put into it. While I am therefore not a candidate in the special election, I am retaining my Exploratory Committee status with an eye toward the regularly scheduled mid-term elections in 2010.

    I have truly enjoyed being with you, and look forward to a deep and lasting relationship to your community. The word “politics” comes from a Latin root that means “of the people.” The politics that matters most is the connection we have among ourselves, and I hope to experience that connection in various ways in the months to come. I will not forget the kindness and support that you extended to me over the last few weeks.

    With gratitude and all best wishes,

    Marianne Williamson”