ELECTION ’12//ASSEMBLY 20 | In recent weeks the 20th Assembly District 20 race took a turn toward negative when hit pieces against Bill Quick were delivered to mail boxes courtesy of Californians Allied for Patient Protection (CAPP), an independent expenditure committee, who have been adamant in support of his opponent, Dr. Jennifer Ong.

The AD20 race has been clean for a majority of the election season with only murmurs from residents about Hayward’s power plant at the end of Depot Road that has stirred some angst because of environment concerns. Quirk was on Hayward’s city council when the Russell City power plant project passed through the California Energy Commission, while some in support of Ong have raised the issue of Calpine’s campaign contributions to Quirk. Calpine is funding the Russell City Energy Center.

One mailer states in bold white lettering under two billowing pillars of smoke, “Should the air we breathe be for sale?” and then on the flip side, “Career politician Bill Quirk thinks so.” The mailer notes Quirk taking money from Calpine and their executives capping at $11,000 for his Assembly race. Another mailer concerning the power plant has Quirk dressed out in yellow disco pants and garish shirt. The mailer says in bold on the front “Let’s make a deal!” with two hands shaking. Quirk hasn’t turned away from discussing the issue though.

“The power plant was approved by the California Energy Commission not the City Council. Because we had seen San Jose lose a fight over a plant, we knew we could not win a lawsuit,” said Quirk. “In 2005, we unanimously agreed not to sue and in return got $10 million toward a new library. Those who did sue, like the college, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs.” Activists at Chabot College pushed this past spring to stop the power plant that was already being constructed. The plant is down the street from Chabot College.

Quirk continues to defend Calpine and developer contributions to his campaign, “The developer they refer to is John Dutra. He gave me the money at a time when he had no business before the council. He simply believed that I was the right man for the job. The same is true for Calpine. No business was before the council.”

Quirk notes that Ong has received over $650,000 from super PACS which, according to financial reports, she has received money from PACs and but has had a far larger slew of independent expenditures made on her behalf. In fact, in recent weeks citizens may notice a flood of mailers produced by PACs like CAPP, Cooperative of American Physicians, and Doctors of Optometry for Better Healthcare in their mail box. Quirk notes this in a recent purple colored mailer that says “Ong is supported by super PACS that are trying to buy the election!”

Ong said Quirk should be ashamed of the attack mailer, “I have no control over them, no input into the content of their communications and we have never solicited their independent expenditure on my behalf or in opposition to Mr. Quirk,” said Ong. “He is wrong to attack me for what I have no involvement in. Both Mr. Quirk and I should be judged fairly and on the basis of the money we have raised. In that regard Mr. Quirk has received more PAC money than I have. He should be ashamed of himself for this bald-faced attempt to reverse the truth.”

Ong has opted for much of this campaign to stay positive and her campaign manager, Bob Twomey who hails from Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s office, is an excited supporter of positive campaigning over negative, but a recent negative mailer was released by Ong’s campaign that stated, “Bill Quirk promises to change Proposition 13 in a way that will hurt small businesses, Bill Quirk promises to vote for every tax increase, Bill Quirk promises to raise revenues every chance he gets.” Quirk notes that he is for Proposition 30, which Ong has not been clear on if she supports the proposition or not, but he further adds that he does not support proposition 38.

“As far as taxes go, I do not support all the taxes on the ballot. I support 30, but not 38. If Prop. 30 does not pass, the schools are in big trouble,” said Quirk. “She is using my support for political gain with conservative voters. If she does get elected and Prop. 30 does not pass, she will find, as the Chronicle said, that there is no magic way out.”

As for Proposition 13–the “third rail” of California politics–Quirk proposed closing a loophole for large businesses that “found ways to transfer [property] ownership without triggering proposition 13 through complex financial instruments.” He further added that this idea could attract Republicans to vote for him.

Ong though claims that Quirk made no distinction in what she calls “a blanket pledge.” “Bill Quirk signed a pledge to eliminate protections under the Proposition 13 for all commercial business property. And while I understand how large corporations have an unfair tax rate under Prop 13 there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses that simply cannot afford higher taxes.”