My Opponent Is Getting Help From Text Messages During Our Debate! OMG!

ELECTION ‘12//TEXT MESSAGING | Calling out your opponent for receiving help during candidate’s forums via text messages–it’s the campaign bombshell sweeping the nation! Well, at least, in our little corner of the East Bay.

On at least four notable occasions this election season, local candidates have lobbed the specious, often times suspect, allegation against opponents they claim received instruction during forums and, in one case, when vying for an appointment to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

“Two funniest moments of the night: Morgan Mack-Rose coming up to me before the debate and asking me if was going to have my friends text me the answers this time,” wrote San Leandro District 4 City Council candidate Justin Hutchison Sept. 25 on his campaign Facebook page. Mack-Rose, though, isn’t even Hutchison’s opponent, but a candidate for the District 2 seat. Nevertheless, Hutchison said Mack-Rose made the jibe referring to a past Sept. 19 forum when she approached him before another candidates forum at the Marina Community Center.

Hutchison denied the allegation, but added he saw his opponent, Chris Crow, reading a particularly negative East Bay Citizen article published that day about himself, during the Sept. 19 forum. The petty shenanigans and hyperbolic accusation do not end there.

Similar accusations have been thrown around at recent Hayward school board forums by critics of a few candidates and some audience members. One allegation posits disgraced Hayward school board member Jesus Armas was seen texting information to candidate Peter Bufete during a forum last week. Bufete is presumed to be Armas’ chosen candidate and campaign finance reports showing he transferred $2,600 to Bufete’s campaign only bolster that belief. The issue of text messaging, for Armas, however, is still a sore subject.

Not to be outdone, others claim another board member was texting Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso at the same forum. Neither claim is substantiated, but poses the question of whether there might be more utility in having these debates via text or instant messaging?

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and her former district director Chris Parman were seen last month texting each other during the endorsement interviews for the Alameda County Democratic Party. Parman also attempted to video tape the forum before Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, a strong supporter for Hayashi’s opponent, Richard Valle, forcefully stepped in front of him. In fact, watching the text messaging going on across the room between Hayashi and Parman was almost like watching a visual interpretation of the Internet with computer information flowing through the ether from one phone to another. A similar controversy occurred during a 2010 Florida gubernatorial debate when the challenger received a text message during a commercial break offering a suggested retort.

The most infamous accusation of a public official surreptitiously using text messaging to aid their performance came last May during the appointment interviews to replace former county supervisor Nadia Lockyer. With Valle and Ana Apodaca both pushing strongly for the appointment, ultimately awarded to Valle, the reason for the choice was bathed in a bit of controversy, albeit cryptically lodged by Valle, who claimed to have given the Board of Supervisors important information leading to his appointment over Apodaca.

Sources later told The Citizen, “The Secret,” as it was later dubbed, involved an accusation Apodaca had received heads up via her iPad about the questions asked to other candidates and their answers that followed. Apodaca vehemently denied the rumor, yet it apparently set the tone for a flurry of oddball accusation that followed in races across the county. Whether the claims are true or not, it is clear text messaging is doing nothing to strengthen the caliber of answers any more than it would help if a supporter literally stood in front of the candidate with a stack of handwritten cue cards and silently mouthed every syllable.

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