AD20: Quirk hits Ong for opposing Prop. 30

In most places, candidates gets slammed for supporting a tax increase; in one Bay Area Assembly race, a candidate is being attacked for opposing one.

Bill Quirk, a Hayward councilman running for the 20th Assembly District seat, is taking his opponent, fellow Democrat Jennifer Ong, to task for opposing Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure on next month’s ballot.

Prop. 30 would raise income taxes for the next seven years for those earning more than $250,000 per year, and would raise the state sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years. The proceeds – estimated at from $6.8 billion to $9 billion, would be used to shore up K-12 schools’ and community colleges budget; if the measure doesn’t pass, schools will suffer an automatic $6 billion in cuts.

The local Democratic machine is campaigning for a slate that includes Rep. Pete Stark, Quirk for Assembly, Richard Valle for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, yes on Prop. 30, and no on Proposition 32, which would cripple unions’ ability to spend on political causes.

Jennifer OngOng – a Hayward resident with an Alameda optometry practice – implied her opposition to Prop. 30 at an Oct. 3 League of Women Voters forum, and then expressed it more specifically in an interview afterward with the East Bay Citizen.

Ong told The Citizen she was troubled by the regressive nature of the sales tax increase. “I won’t be able to personally support that,” said Ong. “It’s trying to stick it to the poor.”

That’s actually a 180-degree turn from what she told the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board in May. Back then, she said she preferred the governor’s measure to the competing tax measure being put forth by Molly Munger (now on the ballot as Proposition 38), and she specifically agreed with the governor’s proposal to boost the sales tax – the only part of his measure that could be considered regressive.

Ong hasn’t yet responded to a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment on this.

UPDATE @ 6 P.M. SUNDAY 10/14: Ong sent this statement at about noon on Saturday, roughly two days after I’d tried to reach her:

“As I said before, I don’t think raising the sales tax on the necessities of life is a good idea. I wish the Governor had not included this in Proposition 30. It is difficult for me to fully support Proposition 30 as it currently stands with great concern over its impact on families and family owned small businesses along with the incremental increase in the price of gas and impending drought.”

This statement, however, ignores the difference in her stance from the May editorial board meeting to now, about which I specifically asked in the email and voice mail messages I left for her Thursday.

Quirk’s campaign on Wednesday issued a statement saying Ong’s opposition to Prop. 30 is surprising for a Democrat in a heavily Democratic district. AD20 is 54 percent Democrat, 17 percent Republican and 22 percent no-party-preference.

“Proposition 30 is critical to the future of our state” Quirk said in the statement. “If it doesn’t pass, our students may lose up to three weeks of instruction each year. I’m actively campaigning in support of the measure – fighting for public education as I have my entire career.”

Campaign finance reports filed last week show Quirk raised $197,742 and spent $121,121 in the third quarter of 2012, and had $110,396 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. Ong raised $96,888.06 and spent $30,474.48 in the third quarter, and had $81,846 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

But neither of the Ong mailers that arrived at my home in the past week were paid for by her campaign.

One Ong mailer came from the Californians Allied for Patient Protection Independent Expenditure Account. According to the Secretary of State’s campaign finance database, that committee spent $112,205 to support Ong in the year’s first three quarters – including $12,000 in August for “opposition research” – and has spent $86,589 since the start of this month for mailers on her behalf. That committee’s biggest contributors in this election cycle have been the Cooperative of American Physicians State PAC ($100,000); NorCal Mutual Insurance Co. ($100,000); The Doctors Company PAC ($100,000); the California Medical Association PAC ($75,000); Physicians for the Group Practice of Medicine ($45,000); and the Medical Insurance Exchange of California PAC ($40,000).

Another came from Doctors of Optometry for Better Healthcare, sponsored by the California Optometric Association PAC. Unlike the other committee, which has spent on behalf of other candidates besides Ong, this one exists only to make independent expenditures on Ong’s behalf – $173,092 worth since the start of the year, including $73,866 since June’s primary.

The newly drawn district includes Hayward, Union City and part of Fremont as well as the unincorporated areas of Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Sunol, Ashland, Cherryland and Fairview.

See video of the League of Women Voters’ AD20 forum, after the jump…

In three parts:

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.