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East Bay Assembly candidates raise big bucks

The eight state Assembly candidates in two sharply contested East Bay primaries raised nearly $625,000 between March 18 and May 17, the dates of the most recent campaign finance reporting period.

In the Republican Assembly District 15 primary, where four candidates are battling it out for the chance to go up against the Democratic nominee in November, retired entrepreneur Robert Rao of Livermore has proven he is a man of his word.

Rao said at the start of his race that he would write as many checks as necessary to run a competitive operation. To date, he has given or loaned his campaign $$479,069. He reported $82,683 in the bank as of May 17 and $136,670 in unpaid bills.

Among the other three challengers in order of fund-raising prowess in the last period:

Judy Biviano Lloyd, businessowner and Danville resident: $77,254 in contributions, $177,350 in the bank and $88,650 in unpaid bills. (Total contributions since January other than loans: $114,723)

Abram Wilson, mayor of San Ramon (no web site): $42,313 in contributions, $46,620 in the bank and $101,065 in debts. (Total contributions since January other than loans: $52,938)

Scott Kamena, optometrist from Livermore: $28,276 in contributions, $54,375 in the bank and $67,761 in debts. (Total contributions since January: $78,958)

The four Assembly District 14 Democratic candidates are furiously racing to next week’s finish line, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, California Legislature | 1 Comment »

Houston strikes back with anti-Piepho mailer

Guy Houston, a soon-to-be-termed-out Assemblyman who is challenging incumbent Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho, struck back this week with a hard-hitting mailer of his own.

Several independent groups have already sent out anti-Houston fliers including one that targets his legal woes stemming from a civil case filed by elderly investors in his family’s business. Others originated with the California Association of Realtors (he is a Realtor and a member of this association), a move he says has its roots in a conflict over one of his bills. (Click here to see my story on the subject today.)

Houston’s new anti-Piepho mailer focuses on the Board of Supervisors’ Dec. 20, 2006, vote to hike their base pay 60 percent from $59,916 a year to $95,568.

The total dollar amount per year is a relative drop in the bucket– $178,260 a year combined for the five board members — compared to the county’s budget.

But the board came under heavy fire for the decision, particularly from county employees who had just settled a new contract with no raise in 2006 and 2 percent hikes in 2007 and 2008.

Board members argued that they were the lowest paid among their peers in the Bay Area and given their responsibilities and long work hours, they deserved more money. Don’t we all?

Warranted or not, folks warned the board that it was a decision that would bit the incumbents in the next election.

And so, here it is.

Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Piepho mailer mimics Times’ front page

Okay, this is not the worst thing I’ve seen on a mailer but it definitely straddles the line.

Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho sent this two-sided invitation to a neighborhood reception. It was obviously designed to look like a front page of the Contra Costa Times.

Granted, the Times editorial board endorsed her over challenger, Assemblyman Guy Houston. The editorial did contain the words she used in the faux headline. And the mailer doesn’t exactly copy our masthead or headline typeface.

But if her campaign had asked us for permission to use our front page in a campaign mailer, we would have said no. It potentially misleads recipients to think this page actually existed. We don’t allow the outside use of our masthead. We don’t put endorsements on the front page. And our headline only said, “Re-elect Piepho.”

It’s pushing it. It’s really pushing it.

Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Deputy sheriffs blast Houston in mailer

A business and labor coalition that includes the Contra Costa Deputy Sheriffs Association dropped a five-page campaign mailer and unveiled a web site today that outlines details of a civil lawsuit filed by elderly investors against county supervisor candidate and Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon.

The Sheriffs Association, which supports incumbent Supervisor Mary Piepho of Discovery Bay, contributed to a PAC that paid for the mailer and its web site,, called the East Bay Business Coalition. The other top four contributers to the PAC listed on the mailer include Cetrus Software, Danville Associates, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West PAC and the Black American PAC of Contra Costa County. (The PAC formed in 2006 to promote two sets of city council candidates in Concord and Brentwood.)

The anti-Houston mailer, titled “The Houston File: What Guy Houston Doesn’t Want You Know Before Election Day,” went to 30,000 high propensity voters in sprawling supervisor District 3, which includes portions of Walnut Creek, the San Ramon Valley and far eastern Contra Costa County.

Four elderly investors alleged that Houston defrauded them of more than $300,000 in a complex series of deals gone sour. Houston has denied any wrong-doing but he reached an out-of-court settlement agreement in 2007 with the investors. The legislator has declined to reveal its terms.

“There are too many unanswered questions about Guy Houston’s lawsuit,” said Deputy Sheriffs Association President Jim Bickert. “I think it says a lot of about Houston’s character that he wouldn’t reveal the terms of the settlement.”

It’s unclear whether this last-minute mailer will have an impact on Houston’s political career. He terms out of the Assembly this year but decided to run for county supervisor after rejecting a bid to run for Congress against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

Here’s the rest of the mailer:

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, California Legislature, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

CNA objects to Nunn’s campaign mailer

Contra Costa supervisor candidate Erik Nunn’s latest campaign mailer has attracted the ire of the California Nurses Association.

CNA government affairs director and former Contra Costa Supervisor Donna Gerber penned a very sharply worded press release criticizing Nunn’s use of a photo that depicts Sutter Delta striking nurses with a sign (shown on the right) that says “California Nurses Association.”

“The photograph is obviously staged and manipulated to have voters believe that Mr. Nunn has the support of East County nurses,” Gerber said. “It couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

The nurses, who have endorsed incumbent Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, also called it inappropriate for Nunn to use a picture of himself standing in front of the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center where he once worked.

Nunn was a security guard for county buildings until he was fired in 1994. Documents show that he threw water balloons at a coworker and attached a sign to the colleague’s car that read, “I’m short with a fuzzy mustache and I’m gay; honk if you think I’m sexy.” (Nunn and the county reached a settlement and Nunn has said he cannot discuss the details per the agreement.)

Okay, I can see why CNA doesn’t like the picture; the organization doesn’t support Nunn — they support Glover — and doesn’t want anyone to think otherwise.

But the complaint about the use of the picture of Nunn standing in front of the medical center appears designed solely to remind people of the incident.

Absolutely, making fun of a colleague is mean-spirited and unacceptable.

On the other hand, Nunn was 23 years old at the time. Barring evidence that he has failed to see the error of his immature and hurtful actions, it seems unfair to rule him unfit for public office for life. It’s also unclear precisely what his role was because he has not been able to tell his side of the story.

Gerber, however, calls it part of pattern of behavior that should send a sign to voters.

“It’s another example of his willingness to be deceptive,” she said. “I’ve been doing this job for CNA for six years and I’ve never seen any candidate in the state where the CNA and the nurses have had an interest in the race try to rip us off so grossly.”

The dust-up reflects an interesting schism between the CNA and other local labor unions, a group that is far from uniform on its political views.

Despite Nunn’s decision to change political parties earlier this year — Republican to Democrat — he has attracted some powerful labor support from people like Jim Kellogg, a California Fish and Game commissioner and a United Association international rep; boilermaker chief Tom Baca, AFSCME, United Professional Firefighters Local 1230; and Rany Le Moine with the Laborers Union Local 324.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 21st, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Concord blogger calls political columnist biased blogger Bill Gram-Reefer is taking me to task for poking fun at write-in Contra Costa County supervisor candidate Steve Thomas’ cut-and-paste gaff while failing to mention that incumbent Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho did a “similar” thing on an endorsement mailer.

(By way of background, Piepho is on the ballot opposite Guy Houston, a state GOP Assemblyman from San Ramon who will term out this year. Gram-Reefer supports Houston.)

Well, it wasn’t similar. It wasn’t even close.

Thomas recycled campaign literature from his state Assembly race but forgot to change some of the words. I had a little fun at his expense in my Sunday column and Thomas got some free media. As a last-minute, write-in candidate who must depend on people to physically write his name down on the ballot, Thomas probably got the better end of the deal.

Gram-Reefer points out that a Piepho re-election campaign mailer contained endorsement letters and pictures from both Democrat State Sen. Tom Torlakson and former GOP Assemblywoman Lynne Leach. (Visit his site to see the mailers, which Gram-Reffer kindly scanned and posted.)

Horrors. A Democrat and a Republican on the same mailer! Leach must be horribly embarrassed, Reefer writes.

Does he know for fact that Leach is embarrassed? Do he know whether or not Leach knew her glowing endorsement letter of Piepho would appear on the same mailer with Torlakson’s equally glowing endorsement letter? I’ve called to ask her. I’ll keep you posted.

And what about Torlakson? Did he shudder when he saw his picture in the vicinity of Leach’s smiling face? Was he told he would appear with a Republican. (Oh yeah, Piepho is Republican.)

To accuse me of bias because I failed to make a comparison between two entirely dissimilar situations is absurd.

UPDATE 4:30 P.M.: I just talked via phone with former GOP Assemblywoman Lynne Leach and she is neither embarrassed or distraught.

“The county supervisor race is nonpartisan and candidates will always have support from both Republicans and Democrats,” Leach said. “This is ridiculous.”

After all, Leach said, Houston has the endorsement of Democrat and Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer and no one is complaining about seeing Kramer’s name next to Republicans on various endorsement lists.

“I endorsed Mary very early on and I was proud to endorse her long before running for this race was even a twinkle in Guy’s eye,” she added. “I know how hard it is to work to get into these positions, learn the issues and work with people who don’t always see eye-to-eye.”

No, she didn’t know the final form of the mailer and she didn’t ask. She wasn’t worried about it.

As for Gram-Reefer’s blog comments, Leach is not impressed.

“If the situation were reversed and Torlakson and I had endorsed Houston, Gram-Reefer would have fallen all over himself to say nice things to say about it on his blog,” Leach said. “He’s a front man for Houston and he should just admit it.”

UPDATE: 9:47 a.m., Tuesday

This dust-up is even dumber than it first appeared. Torlakson and Leach never appeared on the same mailer. Each wrote endorsement letters that appeared in mailers of similar design but the Torlakson mailer went to Democrats and Leach’s went to Republicans. Households with one or more of each party received them both.

Posted on Friday, May 16th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Plan to vote? Register by Monday

The deadline is Monday for Californians to register to vote in the June 3 primary election.
Pick up registration forms at election offices, most post offices, libraries, city and county offices and online at

In the East Bay, a handful of key legislative and county races will be decided in June including two contested Contra Costa supervisor seats, state Assembly districts 14 and 15 and the state Senate post held by outgoing Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata.

Statewide, two ballot propositions on eminient domain, Props. 98 and 99, are also on the ballot.

To be eligible to register, a prospective voter must be a U.S. citizen, a California resident and at least 18 years old by Election Day. People in prison or on parole for a felony conviction and people judged by a court to be mentally incompetent are not eligible to vote.

For more information in Contra Costa County, stop by the Elections Division at 555 Escobar Street in Martinez, call 925-335-7800 or visit

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters is located at 1225 Fallon Street G-1 in Oakland. Residents may also call 510-267-8683 or visit its web site at

In Solano County, reach the Registrar of Voters office is located at 675 Texas St. in Fairfield, call 707-784-6675 or visit

Read more for Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s helpful list of do’s and dont’s in the upcoming election. (Don’t blame her for the snarky comments; those are mine.) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 16th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Election reform | No Comments »

Sign-stealing angers Contra Costa supervisor

Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover is fed up with sign-stealers and vandals who pilfer and mark up his expensive re-election campaign signs.

He’s sent letters to local police and the county sheriff and has formed a volunteer citizen’s patrol to keep watch for the illegal activities.

Unfortunately, sign wars are common in the weeks leading up to an election.

One of Glover’s challengers, Don Parscal of Brentwood, reported missing signs a few weeks ago. One of Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho’s re-election signs on Stone Valley Road first went missing and then a vandal painted on the replacement sign a big red circle with line through it.

I’m certain that most of the candidates on the June 3 ballot who put up signs has experienced similar problems.

Candidates put up signs as a means for supporters to voice their preferences and they give an impression, right or wrong, of community support. But does anyone pick a candidate based on the number of signs he or she counts on that trip home from work or the grocery store?

Read more for Glover’s letters to police:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Houston mailers target Contra Costa but fewer in number

The tempest over Assemblyman Guy Houston’s use of taxpayer dollars to send mailers into his legislative district at the same time he’s running for a Contra Costa County supervisor race generated a couple of interesting questions. (Houston is running on the June 3 primary ballot against incumbent Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho.)

Did Houston depart from his past mailing practices in his state-funded office? And did he send the mailers to all of his constituents or just those that live in both his Assembly district and county supervisoral District 3?

On the first question, the answer is no. People insisting they have suddenly started seeing flyers from Houston in their mailboxes probably weren’t paying close attention.

I asked the Assembly Rules Committee how much many pieces Houston sent out in each of his six years in the Legislature and the results show a decline in the use of mailings since he took office.

In 2002-2003, his first year in office, Houston sent an average of 96,121 pieces a month. That number dropped to averages in the 70,000-range in the next several years. In the nine months of this fiscal year, Houston averaged half that rate at 40,572 pieces a month.

But as to the second query, Houston sent two different mailers mostly to constituents in cities also in District 3 including Discovery Bay, Byron, Danville, Alamo, Brentwood, Diablo and San Ramon. (I say “mostly” because he sent the pieces to several zip codes in Walnut Creek. The city is split into three supervisoral districts so it’s possible that some people received this mailer who do not live in District 3.).

On one of the mailers, the target audience makes sense. It specifically mentions Contra Costa County and how his bill, AB 2872, would increase the local share of property taxes coming back to the county budget for services.

But the second mailer focuses on the state water crisis, a subject that’s undeniably of interest to his constituents in Sacramento, San Joaquin and Alameda counties.

Read more for an annual breakdown of Houston’s mail pieces, postage and average pieces mailed per month:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, California Legislature, Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

Law center predicts rush of lawsuits if props pass

Passage of state Propositions 98 or 99, both on the June 3 primary ballot, would generate a rash of lawsuits, predicts a new 60-page study of the measures by the Berkeley Law Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

Prop. 98 would bar the government’s use of eminent domain to transfer the land to a private entity and end rent controls. It’s supported by taxpayers groups and apartment owners. Prop. 99 is less restrictive prohibition on the use of eminent domain, which bans its use to seize homeowner-occupied residences. It’s supported by county and city associations.

Read more for the press release on the study.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
Under: 2008 June primary, Environment | No Comments »