CHAPTER 9 | Sometimes all a campaign needs is a little luck. Just as pressure was renewed for Rep. Mike Honda to debate his fellow Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, comes help from an unlikely source—the Republican Party. Honda desperately needed an avenue to change the conversation being stoked by the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board, along with KPIX-TV and KCBS radio, which offered to host a televised debate in coming weeks. Honda again declined. Whispers were then spread why is Honda, yet again, ducking a debate? Well, two points: the debate debate is meaningless especially since not a single issue has been discussed thus far in the race, and, second, there is no front-running campaign known to man that would advocate their candidate risk a lead this early in a race. The Chronicle’s gambit is merely to knock down an incumbent with a sterling progressive pedigree (Recall Pete Stark?).
But now, the 17th Congressional Race has a certain amount of scandal following the disqualification by a judge this week of a Republican candidate from the ballot. The accusations leading to the ruling were included in a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Wald, a long-time Alameda County Republican politico. A Sacramento County Superior Court judge focused only on Republican candidate Vinesh Singh Rathore, who has certain ties to Khanna, and the appearance of two signatures on his nominating petition with similar handwriting. The judge, however, sidestepped the accusation Rathore and another Republican, Joel VanLandingham, are ringers recruited to aid Khanna this June. But, the appearance of impropriety remains. The lawsuit asserts the late additions of Rathore and VanLandingham were meant to confuse and dilute Republican Vanila Singh’s conservative base of voters.
Leah Cowan, Khanna’s campaign manager tried to turn the tables on Honda, even though it was attorneys linked to the state Republican Party’s vice-chair who filed the lawsuit Mar. 24. “It’s obvious that the defenders of the status quo feel threatened by the momentum behind Ro’s change campaign and now they’ve resorted to old-style political attacks and dirty tricks,” said Cowan. “There was never evidence to support the ridiculous claim and it was dismissed yesterday by the judge who examined it.”
Yet, questions still persists over Khanna’s ties to Rathore, who only became a Republican a day before filing his nominating papers earlier this month. Rathore, a product attorney for Google, previously practiced law at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, the same law firm Khanna is currently employed. Google is also a Wilson, Sonsini client. Furthermore, there is evidence a registered Democrat from Newark named Manorama Kumar signed Khanna’s own nominating paper, but then later circulated a petition for the Republican VanLandingham’s candidacy. The judge ruled in favor of keeping VanLandingham on the ballot, noting no state election laws forbids the signing of two different petitions in the same race. However, a Democrat going to some lengths to aid a conservative candidate is strange.
Singh, who only launched her campaign last December, has the most to lose by the appearance of electoral shenanigans in this race. She shot back Thursday at Khanna calling the allegations against his campaign, “disturbing.” “That a candidate or his supporters would tamper with an election like this demonstrates a deep and clear sense of entitlement. California’s top-two primary system is new. And it should be respected, not manipulated by candidates desperate to gain an unfair and undeserved advantage through vote dilution.”
Although, in Khanna’s defense, if you believe he urged Rathore to enter the race as a Republican, one would think his highly-paid and experienced staff would have done a better job to get him on the ballot. That Rathore only submitted the minimum 40 nominating signatures, and thus leaving no room for error, is telling and a common mistake made by many first-time candidates.
GUILLEN FOR OAKLAND With progressive candidate Abel Guillen in the race for Oakland’s District 2 council seat, there may not be a race this election cycle more of an early lock than this one. Port Commissioner Michael Colbruno said Guillen is very familiar to voters in District 2 and will be hard to beat based on past performances. Guillen has won Oakland elections for his seat on the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees and, although Guillen lost the race for the 18th Assembly District to Rob Bonta in 2012, he garnered the most votes in the same area. Bonta, in fact, already endorsed his former opponent. Bonta’s staff said the decision was a “no-brainer.”
NO ENDORSEMENT Despite the recent anti-unions actions of the Hayward City Council, the city is still one of the most labor-friendly cities in the entire Bay Area. Three candidates for Hayward mayor, all of which are members of the City Council and voted to impose wage cuts on city workers without collective bargaining, are having a hard time answering to local Democratic clubs who are offering their endorsements. Last week, the Hayward Demos declined to endorse any of the three candidates. Most of the questions posed to the candidates—all three have been backed by the club in previous campaigns—had a distinct union theme. Apparently they all failed to make a convincing argument. On Tuesday, one of the candidates, Councilmember Mark Salinas said of the club’s decision, “I can only worry about what I think, how I look and what I say. I can’t worry about what they think or what you think.” Salinas has the most to lose this June. Instead of running for re-election to the council this year, he chose to run for mayor. If his mayoral aspirations are dashed, he’s out of office. Meanwhile, both Councilmembers Barbara Halliday and Francisco Zermeno have two more years remaining on their terms.
STUPID COMMENT I recently wrote about glaring weaknesses in San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s argument for re-election this November. During his State of the City this week, Cassidy again laid out his case for another four years in office. However, nearly all of his accomplishments could be ascribed to the previous administration. Most significantly, the notion a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2010 greatly aided the city’s finances. The major problem for Cassidy is he vehemently opposed the measure while running for mayor the same year. When asked this week by a local newspaper in San Leandro why Cassidy opposed the now general fund-boosting measure, he said it was because he worried then-Mayor Tony Santos would squander the additional tax revenue. It’s a silly assertion since it was Santos who greatly slashed city staff and expenditures during the worst of the Great Recession. Observers in San Leandro, however, know Cassidy’s schtick. The guy is never wrong. Like. Never.
HERE AND THERE Candidate’s forum season is upon us. Here’s some notable events over the next two weeks: Wednesday, April 2, Hayward mayoral and council candidates face-off at Hayward City Hall, starting at 6 p.m. The same group meet again, Wednesday, April 9, before the Southgate Homeowners Association at 951 Turner Court in Hayward, 7 p.m…Thursday, April 3, Oakland mayoral candidates meet at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street in Oakland, starting at 6:30 p.m…Lastly, a potential hot one in the State Senate District 10 race with Mary Hayashi and Bob Wieckowski, Wednesday, April 9, Fremont City Hall, 6 p.m…Further down the road, a candidates forum between Rep. Eric Swalwell and State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett in the CA-15 has been rescheduled for Friday, May 2, at Hayward City Hall, 7:30 p.m…The next day, Rep. Mike Honda, Ro Khanna and Vanila Singh meet in a much-anticipated CA-17 forum, Saturday, May 3, at Fremont City Hall at 6:30 p.m.