As Swalwell Begins Winning Hearts And Minds, Where Is Ellen Corbett?

State Sen. Ellen Corbett in Pleasanton last June.

SUNDAY COLUMN | It seems like Rep. Eric Swalwell is settling in quite well during the first few months of his first-term in the 15th Congressional District and that should be disturbing for his already declared opponent, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett. Swalwell is making himself visible in both the Tri Valley and Hayward, a constituency that is his weakness and Corbett’s perceived strength. Give Swalwell credit. His most appealing attribute is his youth and his innate ability to, at least, look and feel like the glamorized Hollywood version of what a young congressman is supposed to act like. To well-trained observers, the act is ridiculous and clumsy, but to the regular voters, people political types tend to forget about, he’s straight out of an episode of the West Wing.

While Swalwell is hobnobbing and speaking to constituents without really saying anything or saying two things as once, it begs the question of exactly where is Corbett and is she going to allow Swalwell’s growing popularity to set and harden? One Democratic Party Central Committee member recently criticized Corbett’s lack of any presence in the all-important realm of social media. Corbett doesn’t have a Facebook page for supporters to congregate, nor does she dabble on Twitter. On the legislative side in the State Senate, Corbett doesn’t even seem to have a press person sending out releases trumpeting her legislative exploits. On all fronts, Swalwell is miles ahead of Corbett.

These problems for Corbett will be further exacerbated in the coming election season leading to 2014 because the corporate media, another form of voter outreach, is not going to view her candidacy in favorable terms. In this scenario imagine Swalwell mocking Corbett for a news report last year including her on a list of state legislators who passed on the cost of repairs to taxpayers for state-issued cars just before purchasing the vehicles for their personal use. The corporate media, already happy to blame Sacramento for every ill will cast the story as the entrenched legislator again screwing over voter versus the still unblemished young congressman.

I bring this up because Corbett has a somewhat rocky relationship with alternative media outlets and bloggers, weirdly, the East Bay Citizen, included. She may be out-of-luck with the network of Patch sites, too, which incidentally, do not have a site covering Hayward. However, they do in the Tri Valley along with a potential conflict of interest. One of the Tri Valley editors is married to one of Swalwell’s staffers. So, when the Patch immediately ran Swalwell’s comments on their site following President Obama’s State of the Union, along with access to Swalwell’s inauguration day, you now know how that happened.

Even worse, this perception of Swalwell beginning to win the hearts and minds in places like Hayward may not be exclusive to voters, but also public officials. Assemblyman Bill Quirk and Hayward Councilmembers Mark Salinas and Francisco Zermeno have been seen often at Swalwell events. Zermeno, during last week’s council meeting, talked up Swalwell and Salinas, on several occasions, has posted pictures of himself and Swalwell while promoting the congressman’s events on his Facebook page. The Hayward Chamber of Commerce is already with Swalwell and Corbett’s top critic, Mayor Michael Sweeney, is very unlikely to be one of her supporters.

So, what is Corbett to do? Sure, she can continue to raise money for her campaign because she will need a lot of it and most know fundraising is not her strong suit. She can sign-up for Facebook and Twitter and make herself more accessible not just as the area’s long-time representative in Sacramento, but also make it clear she is running for congress against that guy over there. But, most importantly, Corbett needs to realize she is the overwhelming underdog inthis race against Swalwell. This isn’t just a potential campaign gimmick, but well-suited to Corbett’s past performances.

Old hands in Hayward and San Leandro often recall her surprising victory for mayor in San Leandro nearly 20 years ago–a race that forever upset decades of Jack Maltester’s old boy’s network in that city. Four years later, Corbett won a gallant came-from-behind primary race for the assembly over Johan Klehs and John Dutra that still amazes many in the local Democratic Party. But, if Corbett still thinks voters will simply favor her over Swalwell because of her resume or her candidacy represents the next logical step in her long career of service, then she’s got another thing coming. In fact, Swalwell’s victory over Pete Stark is a fine example that voters have already disagreed with that premise.

“I don’t mean to be a little difficult, but it seems to me if folks in Castro Valley want to feed homeless folks, maybe they should do it in Castro Valley. I don’t know why Hayward deserves that privilege.”
-Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, Mar. 5, during a City Council meeting about a possible ordinance disallowing food-sharing for the poor in public places in the downtown area.

The Week That Was

Thomas Frazier

Thomas Frazier was tabbed the man to clean up the Oakland Police Department this week. The former Baltimore police commissioner is no doubt a divisive figure. Hired by the city last year as a consultant, he lambasted the department for its shoddy handling of Occupy Oakland. That report shocked the mayor’s office and set off celebrations in the Occupy movement. But, those same hardened protesters also read much into Frazier’s long career in law enforcement and ties to vastly conservative think tanks.

The Oakland City Council had a rare good day’s work on Tuesday passing a campaign financial disclosure ordinance making every candidate’s statements to be posted online and easily searchable. The council also passed a measure making it illegal for the city to invest in gun and ammunition manufacturers. They also approved a $11 million outlay for new police vehicles.

Hayward may have made precedent in the East Bay this week after jettisoning its red-light traffic camera program. The council and police chief worried the cameras were actually increasing incidents of rear-end collisions. The fear to driver’s safety was so great that the council chose to lose over $100,000 by ending the contract earlier. Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney also made uncommonly terse statements for non-profit free food-sharing groups who feed the poor in his city. The normally kind Sweeney told a group from very nearby Castro Valley to basically worry about the poor in their town.

Good news from former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, her attorney told an East Bay newspaper she is doing well and out of rehab.

On the pastoral island of Alameda, Police Chief Michael Noonan announced his retirement in June. An interim was named to replace until a new chief is found. Noonan, 51, reached the ripe old of age when most police and fire chiefs leave their post for “retirement.” Nonetheless, aside from allowing a mentally-disturb man drown himself in the bay, Noonan’s two years as chief was without incident.

Although, this story comes by way of San Francisco, it may have serious consequences for those long struggling to save San Leandro Hospital from closure. San Francisco city leaders announced a deal build a new hospital at Cathedral Hill and vow to rebuild the community hospital at St. Luke’s, the latter being owned by Sutter Health, the owner of San Leandro Hospital. Most on this side of the bay maintain Sutter’s inaction over the year with San Leandro Hospital is connected to St. Luke’s and nothing would happened as far closure of the facility until the situation in San Francisco is resovled. It’s resolved and now the poor and underinsured in Oakland and Central Alameda County await Sutter’s move.

Tweet Of The Week
“J.Quan told me she realizes I have a chip on my shoulder. Insulting, more like a broken skull and brain trauma.”
Scott Olsen (@OlsenVet) Iraq War veteran and the Occupy Oakland protester who suffered near-fatal head injuries when police fired a beanbag round at this head in 2011, tweeted Mar. 6, after chatting with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and a public safety community meeting featuring police consultant Bob Wasserman.

Best Reads
>>>Surprisingly this story failed to gain widespread attention, but in addition to Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern wanting a pair of drones, he also requesting facial recognition surveillance at the Coliseum. (East Bay Express, Mar. 6)

>>>Oakland’s new compliance director for the OPD is Thomas Frazier, here’s a rundown of his highs and lows as police commissioner in Baltimore. (Oakland Local, Mar. 8)

>>>Finally, for those of you who wrongly portray Oakland as a tad lower than hell on earth, wake up! “Why all my friends are moving to Oakland” is just another blow to San Francisco’s perceived preeminence in the Bay Area. Because as the writers says about “The City,” “The douchebags are winning.”. (, Mar. 4).