ELECTION ’12//ALAMEDA COUNTY SUPERVISOR | With Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s plans to run for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors this fall now a certainty, the convicted shoplifter is hoping contrary to what she told the Bay Area News Group this week, that voters in Southern Alameda County are not all too smart.
While the entire East Bay political appears to be in a constant state of ruin, good work is actually being done at all levels of government, even by the rogues gallery of drug addicts, thieves and philanders. However, all of the infamous characters, whether they the Lockyers, Hayashi and others, have one personality trait in common–extreme and obscenely hostile arrogance.
Take Hayashi’s comments to Josh Richman on Saturday. She didn’t reason her candidacy for the Board of Supervisors would necessarily give her specific opportunities to help downtrodden residents of the county where unemployment still greatly outpaces nearly every part of the country. Instead, she simply said she’s running because she can and the final smart, cold political arithmetic penciled out at one of the fancy Sacramento dining establishments she reportedly loves to frequent appear to add up to victory in November. “I’m not coming into this blind,” she told the paper. “I think the research shows I can win this race.”
She also repeated what has been and will likely continue to be a major talking point in fighting back critics of her January conviction for shoplifting $2,450 from Neiman Marcus in San Francisco; that line of course, contends Hayashi owned up to her mistake and offered no excuses. In fact, her previous non-excuse was to blame the incident on the alleged presence of a benign brain tumor. She now tells the Bay Area News Group the brain tumor did not, in fact, make her steal a pair of black leather jeans and two blouses and blamed her attorney Doug Rappaport for the statement to reporters minutes after leaving a San Francisco court room last January.
I was one of those reporters who hung around the hallways of the San Francisco Hall of Justice waiting hours for the rumored arrival of Hayashi to presumably plea to something. It’s funny what happens when a gaggle of bored reporters have time to kill and a subject as controversial as Hayashi to converse about. Stories about Sacramento lawmakers loathing to deal with the erratic and sometimes unstable Hayashi turned to lascivious rumors she not only once posed as a Lesbian for the purpose of gaining fundraising dollars to actually being Lesbians, herself. Some Sacramento reporters even dabbled in a long-rumored gossip over a marital affair between Hayashi and a legislative aide, which may have led to a $130,000-a-year job on her staff.
What now appears most striking about the disclosure of Hayashi’s brain tumor on that January day was how Hayashi, standing meekly next to her attorney, said nothing to refute his explanation. A few days later, a press release from Hayashi seemed to have concurred with the tumor defense theory. In fact, after paying her fine at the court room, Hayashi was seen giving a heartfelt and seemingly relieved embrace to Rappaport, her lawyer, as she left the building. If she disapproved of her lawyer’s handling of the media, it did not show that day.
Conversely, the somewhat disavowing of the brain tumor aspect of her defense is actually surprising. A few East Bay insiders were unanimous about the belief Hayashi might be able to stave off criticism of the shoplifting conviction by using her alleged malady as a vehicle to drum up voter sympathy. As one insider told me, a lot of voters will feel sorry for her and chalked up the conviction to a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, right?
Although disenchantment with Hayashi might appear to some to be a relatively new and potent cottage industry of derision and outrage among East Bay residents, it is easy to forget, she was already one of the most disliked and controversial politicians in the area, if not, entire Capitol. Before “shoplifting” became the word most likely to be attached to her name, the moniker of “carpetbagger” was once the top answer. There is truth to both assertions. Hayashi is not a product of the Northern California and the word carpetbagger is also packed with other distasteful connotations, primarily the notion she is nothing but a political opportunist. Outrage also followed her when she transferred $50,000 from her campaign to that of her husband, Dennis Hayashi, who was running for Alameda County Superior Court judge at the time. Dennis won that seat after a string of unfruitful campaigns. The criticism over Hayashi buying her husband’s seat is now viewed as the precursor to Bill Lockyer spending nearly $2 million to stash his wife, Nadia Lockyer, on the Board of Supervisor. Ironically, it’s the same seat Hayashi is seeking this November after the drug-addled Lockyer resigned last April.
Observers of this potential firecracker of a race for the Board of Supervisors between Hayashi, current Supervisor Richard Valle and Union City Mayor Mark Green believe the road to defeating her is simply matter of running off a few thousand copies of the shockingly brutal mugshot taken after cops nabbed her late last October and surely celebrating in her defeat. However, it may be better to think counterintuitively about campaigning against Hayashi this year. Make the conviction a tasty and satisfying side dish and run against her in a more conventional and issues-based manner because truthfully Hayashi is one of the least remarkable lawmakers in the entire Legislature.
If the being uncommonly connected to the community is one of the main prerequisites for county supervisor, then Hayashi fails. Chalk it up to her natural arrogance or her background as a carpetbagger, but Hayashi’s record in the Assembly bears little resemblance to the wants and needs of her constituents around Hayward. In fact, the hallmark of much of her legislation is almost entirely focused on broad-based and often nebulous bills. Sure, she “votes” the right way, meaning she sides with her liberal caucus in the Capitol, but, that too is controversial after the San Francisco Chronicle reported a few years back numerous cases of someone other than Hayashi doing the actually voting on the Assembly floor. Hayashi’s desire to carry the water for special interests, primarily those connected to health care, is likely an outcome tied to her desire to one day run for Congress. Her unnatural distance from her constituents and their problems is not a good fit for a county supervisor who is expected to get their hands dirty in the everyday problems of citizens lacking health care, suitable employment, food and shelter. It is also a huge negative that Hayashi comes from the government body most in local municipalities viewed as the root of the headache as they watch Sacramento continually fix their budget problems on the backs of cities. On this subject, there is no better ally for Hayashi’s opponents than Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, who has lambasted Hayashi over her votes in the Assembly he believes have stymied Hayward’s growth.
The perfect snapshot to highlight Hayashi’s disconnect from the people of Alameda County is to recount an incident that occurred over two years ago. As residents of San Leandro fought for a legislative solution for keeping San Leandro Hospital in operation, they turned to Hayashi and Sen. Ellen Corbett. The bill co-authored by the two rival local lawmakers sought to hamper Sutter Health’s ability to close the hospital by asking for the unlikely consent of voters. When the bill came before Hayashi’s Assembly Health Committee, how did she vote? Not surprisingly, with the bill’s fate in the balance, Hayashi declined to vote, effectively killing her own bill and removing a road block for Sutter to eventually take control of the facility this year with eyes on closing its doors sometime in the near future. “The Mugshot” may seem like a loaded gun itching to go off in Hayashi’s black leather jeans, but her real political problem is her abysmal record in helping the citizens of Alameda County.