CHAPTER 2 | What occurred this week with Alameda Councilmember Stewart Chan may or may not have been a covert political hit job unleashed by some unknown group or potential challengers to his seat on the City Council later this year. We don’t know, but the simple anonymous link alerting us to Chen’s past legal problems cannot be chalked up as coincidence. Be mindful, not every attempt to discredit politicians passes muster, but this one definitely called for our attention.
In fact, there are signs this election season will be filled with similar attacks in the local media. Unlike the Chen story, which was undeniably newsworthy, (Wouldn’t you want to know your local representative once committed insurance fraud?) there have been other less notable cases, but nonetheless dastardly unknown attempts to embarrass political challengers in the last six months, or so.
Abel Guillen may be the most likely candidate
to be attacked by small scale political hits.
Last year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported future Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman tasked students in his political science class at San Francisco State with an assignment that may have amounted to free campaign consulting. The story was a bit ridiculous and Tuman was still a year away from even officially announcing his run for mayor. Who knows where this tale came from, but it’s not hard to begin guessing.
Another hit on Tuman occurred last month when KTVU ran a story on Oakland’s most notorious traffic stop. A neighbor trained his camera on vehicles wantonly running the stop sign, the station reported. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, an incident involving Tuman running over and killing a dog in the area is added without much connection to the other scofflaws. Did Tuman run the stop and strike the dog? Is he known to frequently speed in the area? Who knows? Tuman, a professed dog lover said he was sorry. Was that a hit job? Probably, but not a very creative one using a traffic story to insert the fact Tuman killed a canine.
Then, last week, Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillén raised strong signals he will run for Oakland’s District 2 seat. The disclosure came less than a week after Dana King, a former anchorwoman at KPIX, surprised many by announcing a run for the open seat to replace retiring Councilmember Pat Kernighan. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in Oakland who even knew she lived here, yet alone aware of her politics. Guillén, on the other hand, is the progressive council candidate Oakland has been clamoring for. He is also battle-hardened after nearly winning his race two years ago for the State Assembly.
Guillén, too, is taking a few unknown punches to gut. This week, SF Weekly had an odd report from this side of the bay. The paper raised questions over the Peralta District Board’s hiring two years of President Eric Gravenberg. The short article then began grabbing at straws by using as evidence an obscure book slamming Gravenberg for including a college degree mill on his resume. Who did SF Weekly call to comment on the errors, which it noted was not necessarily a disqualifying item other than being slightly dishonesty? Guillén, that’s who. Guillén was then pressed on how he and his board failed to vet Gravenberg two years ago. That, my friends, is a classic hit job. But it’s unclear why the perpetrators couldn’t find a scribe in the East Bay to gift wrap the attack. I know, because I was offered “scoops” or “damning info” by unnamed sources about Guillén and the Peralta board during the 2012 election. All of it worthless.
Furthermore, it is Guillén who has the most to worry. Whereas, the others are a bit moderate for the East Bay, Guillén’s progressive cred scares the conservative power structure in Oakland’s business community. If progressives can flip one or two of the seats left open by Kernighan and Libby Schaaf, it will become much harder to pass items, for instance, such as the Domain Awareness Center and other resolutions giving additional powers to law enforcement. Put it this way, if Guillen ever kicked a cat, KTVU will report it.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk last year
with actress Halle Berry.
DEBATE DEBATE Last week, Assemblymember Bill Quirk offered an unsolicited pledge to attend as many debates as possible. His Republican challenger, Jaime Patiño, says that’s great. “We are glad that Bill Quirk said he would attend all candidate forums,” Patiño told The Citizen. “We would like to have five debates with him where the people can decide who better represents their ideas on jobs, schools and crime. Let’s have the people see the real contrast in ideas between us.” Although Quirk can sometimes come across as aloof, his debate performances in 2012 were warm and succinct. Patiño also acknowledged the addition of outspoken Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso will make the race interesting. At this point, it will be interesting to see how far right either Patiño or Reynoso go. In his first year in office, Quirk took some strong positions, for instance, on gun control. Last May, at a forum on gun violence, Quirk said, “We know the best way to get killed by a gun is to have a gun in your house for self-protection.” He later added, “You can’t shoot people if you don’t have ammunition.” While many in the 20th Assembly District may agree with him, more rabid defenders of the Second Amendment don’t have to do much squinting to see Quirk was inching perilously close to snatching them thar guns out of them cold, dead hands.
|Dana King reporting…|
ANCHORWOMAN: THE LEGEND OF… Dana King’s recent announcement she is seeking Oakland Council President Pat Kernighan’s seat is one those out-of-blue, am I dreaming kind of newsflashes. The former KPIX-TV news anchor who retired two years ago and moved from Sausalito to Oakland to live the Bohemian life as an artist now wants to take brush and paint to one of the nastiest canvasses in all of East Bay politics, the Oakland City Hall. It’s not clear how much King knows about Oakland and its famously warring council or what her political leaning might be. However, she already made a potentially big mistake in her first interview when she raised the issue of being a “carpetbagger” on her own. That’s not something you ever want to put in voter’s head and especially not on your own accord. This is what we know about King: she is a supporter of Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman. King offered support for Tuman when he announced his candidacy last June in front of City Hall. Campaign finance reports last month also showed King contributed to his mayoral campaign. Of course, the nexus of their relationship comes from KPIX where Tuman was once the station’s local political analyst. In addition, this interplay between Tuman and the local media is something to keep an eye on and it’s possibly a major strength. At the Save Oakland Sports event two weeks ago, Tuman praised King for moving to the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland, with an eye on sprucing up the area. Tuman says King, a full-time artist, often paints over graffiti on her street. However, he says, she tends to leave alone particularly creative works of art.
HERE AND THERE It’s difficult to discern which progressive leader influenced like-minded officials in the East Bay last year: New York City’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio or Richmond’s Chevron-beating, Wall Street-whipping Mayor Gayle McLaughlin? Both are often quoted by East Bay lefties for their populist ideas. This week, however, McLaughlin, who is termed out after this year, announced she will run again for the City Council. Anyone interested in challenging her should call Goldman Sachs for campaign donations…State Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is badly trailing Rep. Eric Swalwell in campaign contributions. In a congressional race featuring the state’s two-top open primary and a race likely to only have two serious challengers, Corbett appears set to save her money until the fall. One major indication? She does not yet have a fully-functioning campaign team…As State Democrats prepare for next month’s convention in Los Angeles, some in Alameda County are pursuing the possibility of bringing the party’s party to Oakland in the next few years. Holding the convention in Downtown Oakland could have serious economic benefits. In recent years, the State Convention has rotated between Sacramento and Southern California…Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog is exploring a run for Congress. Not against Rep. Barbara Lee, but outside the district in Rep. George Miller’s open Contra Costa County seat. It’s legal. The Constitution only says you must live in the state to run. However, don’t try doing the same thing in local and state races or you’re breaking the law.
ONE MORE THING We already went over the financial difficulties over running campaigns in large geographical areas. The same can be said of at-large races. One in particular is AC Transit board director Joel Young’s at-large race. Is there a more vulnerable candidate in the entire East Bay? The opportunity seems like a golden opportunity for someone to vault themselves into the local political scene. You might recall Young as the region’s most notorious bad boy. Two years ago, I detailed the explosive allegations he struck his girlfriend in the face along with the disastrous betrayal the union-friendly candidate committed against SEIU. Even Young’s colleagues on the AC Transit board personally dislike him. Feelings aside, the board voted to censure Young for using his position to potentially enrich the law firm he was employed by. C’mon, there should be a line of candidates forming outside the registrar’s office down to the Lake Merritt BART station with people waiting to challenge this guy.
**The Campaign Insider column appears every Friday from now to the end of the 2014 election cycle in November.