Dirty Politics, Dirty Car

Alameda County voters in District 2 last weekend received this mailer from the campaign of Nadia Lockyer telling her opponent to “Sell the Mercedes. Pay your taxes.”

By Steven Tavares
There’s negative campaign mailers and then there’s dirty campaign mailers. Conventionally wisdom sometimes bunches the two together under the rubric voters dislike such mudslinging. Don Perata sending a mailer saying to vote for anyone but Oakland Councilwoman Jean Quan for mayor is negative, but hardly dirty. A hit piece detailing various candidates in Alameda accepting $250 from the controversial developer in the middle of the biggest story on the island is getting closer. Sending a mailer to voters telling your opponent to sell her automobile to pay her taxes is potentially the stuff of local campaign legend.
With a week until election day, Nadia Lockyer, the District 2 candidate for Alameda County supervisor, hatched the latest variation on what has become the campaign sole discussion against former state senator Liz Figueroa–her taxes. “Our advice to Liz Figueroa…Sell the Mercedes. Pay your taxes” read the mailer below a large Mercedes-Benz logo.
The Lockyer campaign, which has strength in numbers and highly paid is employing a huge gamble with this piece, said one observer of both campaigns. For one, the previous image put out by Lockyer showing Figueroa’s dilapidated shack somewhere in the middle of nowhere strikes a sad, pitiful chord. Three months later, Figueroa is now the rich, fat cat, driving around town in her Mercedes sports car without paying her share of taxes. Which is it?
The current hit piece follows another three weeks ago that is shocking in the historical precedent it seems to ignore. Former county tax assessor Robert Knox, who now lives in Utah and dabbles in the bond market, put his name on a mailer designed to look like a county tax bill detailing Figueroa’s tax troubles. Knox’s mailer is nearly an exact replica of current Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney’s blunder against Figueroa for state senate in 1998. The main difference: Sweeney’s campaign used the exact copy of the tax bill replete with Figueroa’s social security number. To this day, the normally affable Sweeney can hardly be nudged to speak about the ill-fated race. The inclusion of the social security number was the county record’s fault, he maintains, but local lore still points to the error, made late in the campaign while he was reportedly leading, the reason he lost to Figueroa. Ironically, you won’t see Sweeney endorsing Lockyer against his former rival. That is because sources in Hayward say Sweeney is also quite peeved at Bill Lockyer for his hand in getting Figueroa elected in 1998 while they were an item Sacramento.
There seems to be no recollection of Figueroa’s previous escape of the tax issue by the Lockyer campaign. Figueroa, many in the area say, is quite adept at the fostering sympathy. Will voters make the connection between the surprising, oblivious cockiness of the Lockyer campaign. It is Lockyer who is virtually fully-funded by Bill Lockyer to the tune of over $1.1 million in campaign donations from her husband. That figure, sources say, will likely ended up being closer to $2 million once the book is closed on this election. Many believe the race has tightened greatly since the primary. After the Knox ad hit mailboxes, it brought the current holder of the supervisorial seat, Gail Steele, to endorse Figueroa. It will be interesting to see if this latest ad stokes a similar reaction from others in Hayward who privately grumble about the Lockyer’s experience and obvious connections.