Money race for open East Bay Assembly seats

The East Bay’s open-seat Assembly races are seeing some fierce financial competition, according to campaign finance reports due yesterday.

In the 18th Assembly District, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, a Democrat, raised the most from Jan. 1 through March 17 – $76,066.30 – and has loaned his own campaign $7,500; spent $94,323.96 during that period; and had $142,087.82 cash on hand as of March 17. Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, another Democrat, raised $64,929.24 and has loaned his campaign $13,650; spent $43,991.95; and had $132,944 cash on hand as of March 17. And AC Transit Director-at-Large Joel Young of Oakland raised $32,645.00 and has loaned his campaign $50,000; spent $42,566.85; and had $161,919.94 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Rhonda Weber of Alameda, that race’s sole Republican.

In the 20th Assembly District, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, a Democrat, raised $32,174.70 and has loaned his campaign $96,000; spent $40,916.18; and had $130,435.08 cash on hand as of March 17. Hayward optometrist Jennifer Ong, another Democrat, raised $33,699.00 and has loaned her campaign $48,100; spent $119,021.85; and had $91,266.06 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by New Haven Unified School District Trustee Sarabjit Cheema, a Democrat; Hayward Councilman Luis Reynoso, a Republican; or Union City Mayor Mark Green, a nonpartisan candidate.

In the 11th Assembly District, Oakley Councilman Jim Frazier, a Democrat, raised $58,008 and has loaned his own campaign $2,500; spent $91,901; and had $90,543.67 cash on hand as of March 17. Union negotiator Patricia Hernandez of Rio Vista, also a Democrat, raised $19,866.56; spent $34,991.11; and had $15,614.53 cash on hand as of March 17. Retired fire chief Gene Gantt of Vacaville, another Democrat, raised $14,570 and has loaned his own campaign $3,000; spent $26,941.89; and had $16,142.19 cash on hand as of March 17. Suisun City Vice Mayor Mike Hudson, a Republican, raised $40,078.19, spent $40,763.95 and had $594.10 cash on hand as of March 17. Former Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, a nonpartisan candidate, raised $19,488.99, spent $6,291.50 and had $13,547.49 cash on hand as of March 17. I couldn’t find any fundraising by Democrat Charles Kingeter, a programmer from Suisun City.


AD 18 brawl erupts over SEIU’s ‘un-endorsement’

We don’t tend to get excited about unions endorsing Democratic candidates, but when a union later revokes that endorsement, our ears perk up.

That’s exactly what happened to Joel Young, a candidate in the 18th Assembly District, who had gained the Service Employees International Union of California’s endorsement only to then lose it.

Actually, SEIU California in early February had endorsed all three Democrats in the 18th District race: Young, who is an AC Transit director; Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta; and Peralta Community Colleges Trustee Abel Guillen. (Republican Rhonda Weber also is in the race.) But SEIU California’s board unanimously voted at the end of last month to revoke the endorsement from Young.

Here’s what’s not in dispute: Young somehow obtained parts of the endorsement questionnaires that Bonta and Guillen had filled out – papers meant for the union’s eyes only. He was showing around his opponents’ pledges not to take money from JobsPAC, a political action committee co-chaired by the California Chamber of Commerce – a pledge he never made.

Here’s what is in dispute: Young’s motivation.

Joel Young“It’s my understanding that after making a pledge not to seek money from JobsPAC or members of JobsPAC, they are indeed doing that,” Young said Thursday of Bonta and Guillen. “I realize that it’s common in our politics to talk out of both sides of our mouth, but that doesn’t make it right. Both Abel and Rob have made pledges to people in this community and it’s wrong for them to go against those pledges in Sacramento.”

“I was happy that the locals voted to support me and naturally disappointed that their vote was overridden. But that’s none of my business, that’s an SEIU issue,” he said. “While I would love to have had SEIU’s support, I remain committed to giving SEIU my support if I am elected.”

Other sources, however, said Young is putting a respectable spin on a disrespectful act – they say he used the union’s confidential information to solicit money from, and badmouth his opponents with, more conservative interests hostile to the union. As someone close to the union’s deliberations put it, “It’s uncommon for someone to accept an endorsement with one hand and then use the issues we care about as a bludgeon with the other hand.”

SEIU California Communications Director Michael Cox said Thursday he wouldn’t get into the details.

“Our local unions did not take lightly the decision to rescind Mr. Young’s endorsement. His actions violated the integrity of our member-driven, democratic endorsement process,” Cox said. “Unfortunately, his representations here are not accurate and are of a piece with the behavior that led to the withdrawal of our endorsement.”

Philemon Abraham, Bonta’s campaign coordinator, would say only that “Rob is a very principled candidate, and that’s why he earned and maintains strong support from SEIU.”

And Pat Dennis, Guillen’s campaign spokesman, said Young “needs to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. Despite Joel Young’s spin, the members of SEIU spoke with one voice and took this unprecedented action.”

Rumor has it the Alameda Labor Council will be weighing in on this next week. Stay tuned.


Endorsements and money in AD-18 race

The fight for the 18th Assembly District seat rolled onward today with dueling endorsement announcements.

Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta got the endorsement of United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, a labor icon. Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen rolled out his nods from Oakland City Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Ignacio De La Fuente. And Guillen and AC Transit Board Director-at-Large Joel Young both tweeted today that they won the endorsement of Teamsters Joint Council 7.

But while endorsements can make a good media splash, it’s questionable how much weight they’re given by voters. For myself, I’m more interested in following the money – so I briefly eyeballed the three candidates’ campaign bankrolls today. Each is, in some way, a direct product of the elected offices they’re already holding.

Bonta’s campaign had $132,239.62 cash on hand at the end of 2011, including $7,500 he loaned to it himself. Among the contributions he has received are $7,800 from the Alameda Firefighters Association PAC; $3,900 from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s campaign committee; $2,000 from Oakland City Attorney’s Office Supervising Attorney Mark Morodomi; and $1,050 from attorney Amber Maltbie, a former aide to Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, whom Bonta now hopes to succeed.

Guillen’s campaign had $107,040.94 cash on hand at the end of 2011, including $13,650 he loaned to it himself; since then, he scored a $7,800 contribution from the California Federation of Teachers Committee on Political Education (COPE) PAC. Also among his contributions are $3,900 from Cordoba Corp. of Los Angeles, $4,400 from Seville Construction Services of Pasadena, $2,000 from Steinberg Architects of San Jose and $1,000 from Olive Construction Management of El Cerrito, all of which do business with the Peralta college district. Among his elected contributors are Board of Equalization member Betty Yee ($1,000), Oakland Unified School District Board President David Kakishiba ($1,000) and Assemblyman Luis Alejo ($500).

And Young’s campaign had $171,827.32 cash on hand at the end of 2011. Among his contributions are $3,900 each from the Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington, D.C. and from the ATU’s California Conference Board; $5,500 from Emeryville-based developer Eddie Orton and his wife; $3,650 from the Engineering & Utility Contractors Association PAC; and $3,500 from AC Transit Ward 4 Director Mark Williams’ campaign.


Kathy Neal drops 18th Assembly District bid

Kathy Neal is halting her 18th Assembly District campaign.

Kathy Neal“I am proud of the progress we made in such a short period of time and greatly appreciate the help, partnerships, and backing that emerged from a widely diverse base of support,” Neal, 62, of Oakland, said in a statement issued early this morning. “While I will not be an active participant in the race at this time, I will continue to be involved in state and local politics, because I am committed to improving the lives of those in our community, especially for those among us who are less fortunate or disenfranchised.”

Although her release said she “entered the race much later than her opposition yet garnered considerable traction,” it seemed she wasn’t keeping up with the other Democrats in the race: Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta; Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen; and AC Transit Director-at-Large Joel Young.

Neal – the owner of an information technology consulting firm; a former Port of Oakland commissioner; and ex-wife of former Assemblyman and former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris – was trailing far behind all three of them in campaign contributions. And although Neal is a county and state Democratic committeewoman, she trailed behind the others in votes at the party’s local pre-endorsement conference a few weeks ago (though none of them got enough votes to win an endorsement).

Neal noted she has worked to elect other California Democratic women including Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Jackie Speier and Barbara Boxer as well as more local names such as Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks and Peralta trustee Linda Handy.

“As women, I have always believed that our voices must be heard and I have worked tirelessly to place strong and effective women in elective office,” Neal said. “While I regret that at this time I am unable to continue my candidacy in the new 18th Assembly District, I look forward to future races where I can play an integral role in ensuring greater representation of women in office.”

She thanked all who have “committed time, energy and resources to my campaign. You are truly remarkable people. Going forward, I will assure that your confidence in me was well placed by continuing the work I have always done for the full, positive and beneficial inclusion of everyone in all that our society has to offer.”


Democratic endorsements, or the lack thereof

There were some interesting Bay Area results from the California Democratic Party’s “pre-endorsing conferences” this past weekend, at which members of the party’s state central committee, county committees and local Democratic clubs got together to vote on who should get the nod for the June 6 primaries.

A candidate would’ve needed 70 percent of the vote at one of these meetings in order to secure a place on the consent calendar at the state Democratic convention, which will be held Feb. 10-12 in San Diego.

In some places, redistricting has pitted former friends and allies against each other; such is the challenge Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is mounting against state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley. State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento had signaled his support of Hancock months ago, and – unsurprisingly – I hear she got 136 votes (86 percent) at the local conference while Swanson got only 21. However, I hear Swanson had enough local labor heavy-hitters behind him to guarantee he’ll have some boots on the ground in the run-up to the vote.

Swanson is term-limited out of what has become the new 18th Assembly District, where Democrats including Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal are vying to replace him. Bonta got the most votes but Young trailed just behind, with nobody anywhere close to the 70 percent threshold.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, is term-limited out of the new 20th Assembly District, where Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk got the pre-endorsement nod over fellow Democrats Jennifer Ong, an optometrist from Hayward, and New Haven Unified School District Sarabjit Cheema. (Union City Mark Green ditched his former Democratic affiliation and is running as an independent.)

The only vacant Bay Area House seat is the one created by the impending retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, fired off a news release noting he got 69 votes – more than all the other candidates combined – highlighting “the strong grassroots support of my campaign from throughout this entire district.” But his closest competitor, progressive activist Norm Solomon of Inverness, got 41 votes – enough to block any endorsement in this race.

And in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, was solidly endorsed over an upstart challenge by Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell. I hear that a staffer for state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, cast her vote for Stark rather than for “no endorsement” – a sign that Corbett, who’d at first said she was raising funds to seek this seat in 2014 but later said she was re-assessing the option of jumping in now, perhaps has decided not to go for it this year. Corbett herself couldn’t cast a ballot, because she doesn’t live within the new district’s lines.


Alameda Vice Mayor announces Assembly run

Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta today formally announced he’ll be a candidate for the 16th Assembly District seat in 2012.

Rob Bonta“I am running for Assembly because the world’s eighth largest economy is capable of better safeguarding its local schools,” the Democrat said in his news release. “Together, we are capable of keeping more cops and firefighters on the job.

“I am running for Assembly because good times or bad, California’s seniors, the disabled and those in need of healthcare deserve basic levels of protections. We can do all of this while creating jobs and maintaining a solid climate for economic growth.”

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, is term-limited out next year. Redistricting is still in progress, but Bonta believes Alameda is likely to remain entirely in the district.

Bonta has been Vice Mayor since last year and is a former Alameda Hospital Board member; he works as a San Francisco deputy city attorney. He and his wife, Mia, have three children.

He listed among his early supporters Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Franisco, and Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino; Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore; Alameda City Council Members Beverly Johnson and Lena Tam; and various Alameda school board and hospital board members.

Bonta’s release came by way of strategist Mark Capitolo of the Sacramento-based political and public affairs firm Duffy & Captiolo. He has considerable campaign experience both with his own firm and from his days at the San Francisco powerhouse of Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners; earlier, he was former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s communications director.

Others who have filed statements of intent to run for the 16th Assembly District seat include Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen; Democratic county committeewoman and longtime politico Kathy Neal; and AC Transit Board Director-at-Large Joel Young, all Democrats. As of February, the district’s voters were registered 63.8 percent Democrat; 9.5 percent Republican; and 20.7 percent decline-to-state.