ELECTION ‘12//DEMOCRATS | When it came time Saturday afternoon for the marquee event of the Alameda County Democratic Party’s nearly 10 hours endorsement meeting, there was a bit of buzz in the air as Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi strode into the small, stuffy office space in Hayward. Once she sat, back stone stiff, in front of fellow Democrats, her eyes darted across the room while she fired intermittent smiles and terrified grimaces. It was the definition of hot seat, which is probably why she visited the endorsement meeting with her long-time lieutenant Chris Parman; apparently one last battle for the district manager in the name of his former boss.
Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle entered the room equally as quiet. Like some fusion of a bushy, white-mustachioed “Rebel Without A Cause” with dancing West Side Story roughnecks in tow, fingers-a-snapping. As Valle delivered his opening remarks, he let it be known, the entire gang of usual Alameda County suspects were riding with him–his “ride-or-die bitches.” The leaders of the county building trades union and labor council seemingly rolled up with their invisible Harley’s rumbling and offered just a slight nod of steely recognition as Valle called out their names. However, neither would be Valle’s enforcer Saturday afternoon for this rumble in the county jungle. That’s because Valle’s muscle would come in the form of Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney.
It didn’t take long for Sweeney to see something was amiss with Hayashi, often the target of his ire, along with State Sen. Ellen Corbett, the city’s two representatives in Sacramento. If critics of the local Democratic Party severely fault elected officials for being far too lenient to Hayashi in the early weeks of her shoplifting arrest last Oct. 25, 2011, the derision should probably be saved for Sweeney, who has unleashed numerous public tirades against both for what he perceives is their treachery against Hayward in the form of votes allowing the Legislature to further take back local funding.
Sweeney, who, along with his wife, were positioned near the door for Saturday’s almost high-noon shootout and somewhat behind Hayashi as she answered committee member’s questions. Stern and with his arms tightly crossed, Sweeney briskly walked to the back of the audience and firmly planted himself in front of Parman. At first glance, the maneuver appeared designed to intimidate Hayashi, who was glancing numerous times at Parman. Potentially looking for a friendly face among sullen, brow furrowed fellow Democrats? Afterwards, Sweeney told The Citizen, he believed Parman was videotaping the proceedings with a smart phone. The upshot being Team Hayashi might use Valle’s answers against him sometime in the next two months of the campaign, Sweeney said.
With the operation possibly foiled, Parman did not move from behind the Sweeney blockade, but instead appeared to begin texting Hayashi during the interview session. Onlookers from the side, including myself, could see Parman tap-tapping on his phone and moments later, witnessing Hayashi grab her own phone from the table and responding back slightly under the table and astride her left leg. Parman denied it, but said he was puzzled why Sweeney chose to stand directly in front of him when plenty of other vantage points were available. However, taping the interview session is not against the rules. The central committee is an elected office and meetings are open to the public. Every committee member asked about the political ballet going on unbeknownst to nearly all, did not fault the alleged move by Hayashi, but some took umbrage with the gamesmanship.
So, while the Valle and his gang of South County choppers rode away down B Street like the ending of some 1950s black-and-white movie matinee, from the looks of things, even though Valle won the party’s endorsement by a land slide, not all may have been lost for Hayashi. When Valle spoke of St. Rose Hospital as a shining example of his leadership, Hayashi beamed. When Valle spoke of his work with Tri Ced, she lit up again like a merry prankster whose glee slowly builds as the primary mark inches closer to falling for the trick. If Richard Valle pulls a drag from that exploding cigar, it will surely go….boom!
Shane Bond also contributed additonal reporting for this article.