Stark Shake Up: Cornu In, Tourk Out

ELECTION ’12//CONGRESS 15 | When an entrenched congressman suffers a precipitous drop in primary support never before seen in his 40 years on Capitol Hill, you might expect heads to roll. Rep. Pete Stark has fired his campaign manager Alex Tourk and replaced him with local union stalwart Sharon Cornu, the Bay Area News Group reported Monday.

Cornu, 53, is well known in Alameda County labor circles after leading the Alameda Labor Council for nearly a decade. She signed on as an advisor for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan before resigning last November in the aftermath of the city’s handling of the Occupy Oakland movement. As Josh Richman notes, the composition of Stark’s new re-election team has a decided labor flavor to it.

In recent weeks, several union officials in the East Bay have told The Citizen, one of the best ways to break Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell’s lock on the Tri Valley is through the labor movement. How that will be accomplished is unclear. On a lunch break from campaigning in Castro Valley Sunday, Swalwell said election maps showed his upstart campaign finished first in Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon and Castro Valley–basically, most of the redrawn 15th congressional district’s newest areas.

Cornu also told the Bay Area News Group, Tourk and Stark have amicably parted ways. In hindsight, the tragic political theater and rash of flubs from Stark, along with his campaign’s chronic inability to stanch the wounds were very much the hallmarks of Tourk’s recent controversial past.

As one of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s top aides, Tourk is most infamous for resigning after it was revealed Newson was having an affair with his wife. More conventional controversies have followed Tourk in recent years, including the resignation from two San Francisco mayoral campaigns and an incident last year when he and his consulting firm were accused of violating rules involving unethical conduct by lobbyists.

The collection of alleged wrongdoing by Tourk in the past begs the question of why Stark tabbed an outsider to run a re-election campaign where even local consultants had conflicting opinions over how the Tri Valley’s significant inclusion to the district would play out. Yet, as one local consultant said of Stark’s errors recently, you can’t totally control the candidate and it is still not clear whether Stark went over the rails on his own by charging Swalwell with bribery, failing to vote and implicating the San Francisco Chronicle’s Debra Saunders in a conspiracy to aid his challenger.

However, Stark told The Citizen about a “sweetheart deal” alleged to be given by Swalwell to the powerful Tri Valley developer Charter Properties two months before his infamous outburst at a forum in Hayward alleging bribery. In spite of a growing amount of circumstantial evidence, at worst, supporting the claim, Stark offered the charge without preparing a shred of evidence. The fallout from the Hayward forum and inaction by Tourk in its aftermath went a long way in helping Swalwell come within six points of the incumbent congressman last June.

Categories: alameda labor council, Alex Tourk, CD15, congress, Eric Swalwell, Jean Quan, Pete Stark, San Francisco, sharon cornu

13 replies

  1. Stark may well win, but the group he is surrounding himself with seem more in tune with the old district lines. Once you get over the hill into the vally, the number of union members dwindles.
    If you exclude public employee union members, the numbers are very low.

    They're going to have to attempt to turn Swalwell into the “bad guy” and I suppose they have lots of money with which to do that.

    However, they are also going to have to keep Pete away from a microphone.
    I'm thinking Pete is going to start looking like he is hiding should that tatic run the entire campaign.

    If there is a candidate forum, will he dare attend?


  2. Wow- Stark's reaction is to hire a tired union hack?? He thinks that Pareja's votes will like that? Maybe Sharon could organize a picket at Stoneridge Mall until more people vote for Pete!


  3. Cornu will only make matters worse.


  4. Cournu is a real bad person….


  5. By MW:

    Far and away the best thing Pete Stark could do in regard to improving the Pete Stark group would be to fire himself, in other words to resign.

    In fact he is kind of a like a longtime major league baseball player now so old and feeble that he is not competent enough anymore to even be a utility infielder in the minor leagues, but who continues to delude himself into thinking that his below .200 batting average and constant flubs with the glove are only due to bad luck and a temporary slump, and when actually they are the result of a continued and major decline in his physical abilities.


  6. 9:13 AM

    Don't you think that means Stark needs to step down, instead of desperately clinging to his seat for another 2 or 4 years? Isn't that kind of pathetic? He's no longer able to serve competently. Especially if the pathway to victory includes “hide Pete from the voters, and pray that the Media doesn't want to interact with him”. Geez.

    Literally: For PETE'S SAKE: tell the old man to step aside. He's had a great run. We are all thankful for his leadership.

    Now it's time for a new vision, new leadership, youth, energy, and someone willing to go to Washington with new ideas. We would all be better off if Erik Swallwell wins in November.


  7. OMG, the first day of the fall campaign for the general election and Pete goes off again…

    Pay attention to his handlers trying to drag him away from press questions, telling everyone to stay on the “positive message”…

    Sorry, but Pete is a walking-talking disaster whenever he gets asked a question.
    Can they hide him for 4 months?


  8. BTW, ABC7's Mark Mathews, did a 2 minute piece on Pete Stark's appearance today at the union rally.

    Same remarks as found on SFGate but with much better video and with a interview of Swalwell as well. Did not paint Pete in a favorable light, especially his last remark.

    I saw this at about 6:15 PM and they may show it at 11:00 pm. Thus far I don't see the video on their ABC7 site, but I'm sure it will appear between now and 11:00pm.


  9. That's a good one. Conservative types on this blog who hate Stark also hate the media. You see starbursts and celebrate whenever Palin, Christie or other GOP yahoos openly insult reporters. Yet, we're supposed to see Stark insulting same as a massive gaffe.

    Pete is pointing out during this “gaffe” that out-of-state, Tea Party-supporting SuperPAC's will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars between now and November in their ongoing attempt to defeat him, following the piles of money they spent in the spring. That seems significant, and worth reporting.

    It's also significant that Stark said he was ready to respond to any policy issues the reporters wanted to ask about. But they don't care about boring old government policies, that's for nerds. They've got their plotlines (Stark's a hothead! He's old! He might stop debating! Swalwell's a fresh face!), and that's where they'll keep their “journalistic” focus between now and November. It's fun for them- so exciting and controversial!

    Yet, all this doesn't do much to inform the public about what the candidates would do in office before this important election.


  10. 7:44, how correct you are.

    The real issues need to be debated.
    I'm sure, with the fullness of time, Pete will reconsider his “no debating” stance and face the voters in a more lengthly forum where he can expand on the issues he so cares so deeply about.

    Do you think the reporters might have asked more responsible questions if they were given more than just 60 seconds as Pete was walking to to the car?
    I mean, 3 or 4 reporters, 60 seconds of face time, and Pete is complaining because they weren't talking about the deep and important issues.

    Lets see, doing the math, 60 seconds (with the aide tugging on his arm), divided by 4 reporters.
    Hmmm, 15 seconds per reporter. Well each could have a 5 second question, followed by a 10 second answer to those “issues” questions that Pete demands.
    “Well, I gave them a chance but I won't debate because –we'd only get stupid questions like you are asking–“

    No doubt about it. Pete is more than willing to clear his schedule of “important meetings” and really speak about the issues.

    I expect we'll see a lot more of him over the next 4 months, really laying out the issues in depth.
    Perhaps the campaign has a calendar of those events and will notify the media like they did today.


  11. The commenter at 7:44pm is exactly right. When I watched the video I shook my head in disbelief. Stark more than dangled the real plotline of the campaign–outside conservatives influencing the race–and the reporters there, ostensibly to bait him, didn't even catch it.

    The reason: they don't care or know anyhting about the area or the race. I can't tell you how infuriating it makes me whenever I see Carla Marinucci served up as some kind of expert. How can the public be informed when the reporter is not?

    In my opinion, this video is completely unnewsworthy. Stark did nothing wrong and he the question WAS stupid and the reporters from Ch. 7, it should be said, was rude.


  12. Oh come on, Pete, his handlers, his new campaign master Cornu, and the unions, ALL set the stage today. They had everything planned for sure.
    In that arrangement they included near zero time for any questions.
    You can't blame the reporters for not grabbing your “plotline” issue in the few seconds they had available.

    It was not they who were urging Pete's arm to rush him off the scene. NO, if Pete wanted to stay there for 6 minutes or 60 minutes, they'd have been more than happy to get into any issue or plotline he wanted to express.

    So what will Pete be giving us? After all, as you suggest, we can't count on the mainstream reporters, print and TV.
    Does that mean Pete will expand his availability to discuss his real issues? In a open forum or debate.

    It takes two to engage in substantive conversation.
    If Pete won't debate, or allow time for reporters, then what you end up with is what we saw today. He, not the media, is in control of access.
    Marinucci may not be great. Mark Mathews may not be a expert on politics. So why not give time to other reporters. Who else was there?


  13. I don't agree with 8:56's view that reporters at this event would have “been more than happy to get into any issue or plotline he wanted to express.”

    First, it isn't the reporter's job to ask only the questions about subjects that candidates want to talk about. That is in the best traditions of journalism. Second, it is apparent that reporters have their storyline for this race, and the questions they ask Stark will concentrate on their chosen themes. Third, one of those themes, (reasonably so, due to Pete's many immoderate statements), is that Stark is a hothead. Reporters want to get him to say things which can be painted into that theme, so they actually have an incentive to ignore the difficult issues facing the Federal government (which, after all, is what the winner of this race will grappel with) and behave as if they are Swalwell's press agent. That is in the worst traditions of journalism.

    So yes, it will continue to be extremely frustrating for Pete when he faces reporters. Essentially, they are working as an arm of the Swalwell campaign. Their papers have endorsed Swalwell, the owners of the television and radio stations want to make even more money and have even fewer regulations, and Eric would be far more likely to help them in those areas. The media owners and editors should not be in full control of the day-to-day reporting on campaigns, but let's take the scales off our eyes, they are.


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