Three’s a Crowd; Cassidy Running for Mayor

Stephen Cassidy is in it to win it.

After months of appearances at public meetings and numerous letters to the editor critical of the current mayor’s job performance, the former San Leandro school board trustee is the second challenger to Tony Santos in 2010.

Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak announced her bid in early Aug. 10.

The addition of Cassidy may prove problematic for Santos in a situation where he will need to fight a two-pronged fight against his two challengers. Starosciak is backed by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi whose camp comes along with a hard-nosed reputation, in addition to the recent hiring of political consultant Larry Tramutola, who is known for unleashing a stinging mailer or two.

Cassidy announced his candidacy Oct. 7 and unveiled an informative web site likely to enlist the same social networking tools many national and statewide campaigns have begun to employ to great success. On his site, visitors can learn about the candidate’s positions, sign up for updates and volunteer for the campaign. In comparison, the current web site of Starosciak is quite rudimentary and Santos does not have one.

In announcing his candidacy, Cassidy says he will not draw a salary as mayor until the city’s budget ills are cured. The amount the mayor earns is paltry, but the concept has been floated by Cassidy in recent months when he called for the current mayor to do the same while calling for the end of pre-meeting meals the city council enjoyed in the name of saving money.

Cassidy, who is a consumer attorney, is placing his bet for mayor on improving the city’s stagnant economy. He believes he can do it without raising taxes, which the mayor and city council have recently been unsuccessful in passing through referendum.

“Unemployment is at record levels. Seniors are not receiving a social security cost of living increase next year. Thousands of residents have lost their retirement nest eggs. The last thing the mayor and city council should be planning is another tax hike,” said Cassidy. He also specifically criticized the city’s consideration of increasing the sales tax to 10 percent.

“The city council and mayor have no credibility on this issue,” he told The Citizen in September. “They want to tax us out of deficit spending.”

The possibility of political fireworks exploding between Cassidy and Santos have not subsided since Cassidy began floating the idea of running against the one-term mayor earlier this year. During a lenghtly interview in May, Santos told The Citizen, “Here’s a guy who was on the school board for four years and they had a deficit like we’ve had a deficit. In fact, he’s no longer writing to me because I wrote him a memo saying, ‘you couldn’t even balance your school budget and you’re coming over here and telling us how to balance our budget?'”

In the comments section of the same post, Cassidy wrote, “Unfortunately for San Leandro, Mayor Santos sends insulting and inaccurate email messages to constituents.”

The tenor of the their nascent political pugilism seemed to have fallen to the level of normal comity during a finance meeting when Santos lauded Cassidy’s plan to form a citizen’s committee to allow for more disparate groups in the community to solve the city’s budget woes. Yet, during a break, Cassidy said “He praises me in public and puts me down in private.”

Blistering email exchanges between the two are notorious to be found in the inboxes of the city political insiders. Whether Santos and Cassidy bloody themselves to Starosciak’s benefit remains to be seen, but among the two relatively unknown challengers, Cassidy has done more to introduce himself to San Leandro by way of the sheer volume of his writings, while setting the groundwork for a running a modern Internet-based campaign San Leandro has yet to experience in its political history.