The gloves are off in the 10th State Senate District race, where Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski has brought former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s shoplifting conviction front and center.
A MugshotMary.com website created by Wieckowski’s campaign highlights Hayashi’s October 2011 arrest for shoplifting $2,450 worth of clothes at San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus store; she remains on probation still. “Character matters,” the website claims, offering the hashtag #DontVoteForCriminals.
Part of the website outlines criminal problems of three sitting state Senators. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has been indicted for allegedly selling official favors and conspiring to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was indicted last month on bribery charges. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury related to not living in the district he represents.
“Corruption in the California Senate is out of control. Three State Senators arrested or convicted in three months,” the website says. “Now, Mary Hayashi, who is on probation for shoplifting, wants to be your next State Senator. Do we really need another criminal representing us in Sacramento?”
Josh Pulliam, Hayashi’s campaign strategist, noted Monday that the website appeared right after Hayashi – who as of last month had four and a half times as much money banked for this campaign as Wieckowski – launched her first television ad and sent out three mailers to the district voters last week.
“So Bob’s opening salvo is an over-the-top personal attack against Mary Hayashi, and I think that says a lot about his character and the type of politician he is and why he hasn’t been able to be a very effective assemblyman,” he said. “And by attacking the institution of the state senate, it shows he wont be able to be a very effective state senator, either.”
Pulliam also said Wieckowski, D-Fremont, has skipped several forums and debates around the district, and when asked about ethics issues at a recent event he did attend, he didn’t say a word about Hayashi’s conviction. “He’s a big man when he hides behind a website.”
Wieckowski campaign strategist Lisa Tucker replied that he has the vast majority of endorsements in this race, indicating most “people and organizations think he’s going to be a very effective senator and like what he’s done in the Assembly.”
“If Mary was actually in the district and paying attention, she would know Bob has been talking to voters for months,” Tucker added, noting the campaign has made more than 50,000 door knocks or phone calls so far. “This is not the first thing to come out of the box from our campaign.”
Wieckowski’s campaign seems to have missed the mark with two details.
One, the website says Hayashi pleaded guilty; actually, she pleaded “no contest,” which means she neither admitted nor disputed the charge against her. While not technically the same as a guilty plea, it has the same legal effect: conviction.
And two, the website said she never apologized. In a July 2012 interview, Hayashi said she had been distracted by a phone call when she left with the unpaid items. “Of course, I intended to pay for them,” she said. “But I accept responsibility and offer apologies, not excuses.”
Hayashi in that 2012 interview also said that “my opponents may use the issue to try to smear me, but I trust the voters to be smarter than that.” She was speaking about the Alameda County Board of Supervisors seat she was seeking at that time – she later finished third out of four contenders – but she might as well have been talking about this race, too. So perhaps the website is Wieckowski’s bid to gauge just how smart the voters are.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Peter Kuo – an insurance agent from Santa Clara – has been busy shoring up support and holding fundraising events. He’ll have a fundraiser Tuesday night in Sunnyvale with Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and then another on Thursday, May 8 in Fremont with state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea.
Also seeking the 10th State Senate District seat are Democrat Roman Reed, a spinal-injury research advocate and planning commissioner from Fremont, and former Assemblywoman Audie Bock of Hayward, running as a nonpartisan.