Asian American Electorate May Decide Next San Leandro Mayor

Councilmember Benny Lee, second from left,
is a byproduct of the new found strength in
San Leandro’s Asian American populace.

SAN LEANDRO | MAYOR | It would have been unthinkable a generation ago that any demographic in San Leandro other than Caucasians would be the voting bloc determining the makeup of its city officials.

The U.S. Census in 1970 infamously reported San Leandro was nearly 100 percent white—give or take a few black families that somehow infiltrated the city’s notorious redlining of homes from outsiders. Today, San Leandro’s largest demographic is not white or black, but Asian Americans, who incidentally, have recently shown a willingness to stand and be heard at City Hall.

Two years ago, Benny Lee became the city’s first Asian American council member, but his election underlined a series of seemingly innocuous events that showed the demographic had become not only more vocal than other groups in the city, but better organized. First, came a proposal by a local businessman to erect a wind turbine on his property near the predominately Asian Heron Bay housing development.

Councilmember Pauline Cutter

Residents turned out in droves to protest the wind turbine, but ultimately the City Council and mayor sided with business interests. The permit to raise the turbine is currently mired in litigation, but anger toward the Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who is not running for re-election, later spilled over again following his unilateral decision to reverse a council vote that would have allowed the Chinese flag to be raised over City Hall in honor of its national day.

The decision further raised a furor within the Asian Americans in San Leandro who viewed the flag-raising not as a symbol of Chinese oppression, as critics had argued, but as a celebration of their culture.

Councilmember Diana Souza

Despite the rancor, Cassidy did little to mend the rift within the city and that decision may go far in deciding who will be the next mayor. Councilmembers Pauline Cutter and Diana Souza are both seeking the office, as is local theater owner Dan Dillman.

Although Cutter attempted to act a mediator on the council during the Chinese flag fiasco, it may not matter to Asian groups in the city who tend to firmly stand against anybody viewed as too closely aligned to Cassidy. Dillman, a dark horse candidate who could greatly benefit in the ranked choice voting race with just three candidates, also leveled strong criticism against the flag-raising last year. At one point, he asserted having foreign flag flown over City Hall amounts to a military occupation.

Meanwhile, it is Souza, the two-term council member, who has steadily courted the growing Asian American demographic over the past few years. While her consistent opposition of cannabis dispensaries in San Leandro may not jibe with the entire city, it does with Asian American groups, who tend to be more socially conservative. In addition, Souza has a strong working relationship with Lee and supported the Chinese flag resolution.

And here’s another sign both Cutter and Souza see the Asian Americans as the key to victory: each requested their ballot statements include their names in Chinese characters.



Categories: Asian Americans, Benny Lee, Chinese flag, Dan Dillman, Diana Souza, dispensaries, Pauline Cutter, S.L. City Council, san leandro, San Leandro mayor, Stephen Cassidy, wind turbines

60 replies

  1. The one person defending Benny Lee's action, and there is only one, seems to forget Benny Lee was elected to represent San Leandro not Oakland. That was a reprehensible action on his part, as San Leandro lost many millions over the life of the contract and hundreds of jobs. In other words —-he screwed the city he represents.

    Very few care that Sara Ubelhart gave money to Pauline Cutter because a majority of voters in California approve of medical marijuana and it's distribution. You are in the minority.

    What they don't approve of is our Vice Mayor Benny Lee telling Oakland it's ok if they take MILLIONS of dollars and jobs away from San Leandro. What San Leandro voters don't approve of this same company's director threw a fundraiser for Diana Souza after taking jobs and millions away from our city.

    What San Leandro voters don't approve of is flying the Chinese flag over city hall. Recall Benny Lee and don't vote for Souza for Mayor.

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  2. By MW:

    I will be extremely disappointed if San Leandro's next mayor is determined on the basis of ethnic bloc voting.

    As to which candidate wins an election, that is not supposed to be determined by ethnicity and ethnic bloc voting, but instead by such things as: one, which candidate is the best at engaging in non-stop lying; two, which candidate is also the best at keeping a straight face and looking extremely sincere while engaging in those non-stop lies; three, which candidate makes all sorts of promises as to all of the things he will do to improve things if he gets elected, promises he knows he cannot possibly keep, and in most cases actually has absolutely no intention whatsoever of even trying to keep if he gets elected, and are made as nothing but sleazy and misleading campaign promises; four, which candidate is the most talented at sliming his opponents and misrepresenting his opponents' positions; five, which candidate is the very best at being a demagogue and a charlatan; and six, which candidate is the very best at selling his soul, in other words selling himself to the devil, to those who are willing to provide large election campaign contributions.

    Since I am a traditionalist and firmly believe in traditional “values,” please, I beg of you all San Leandro voters, do not allow yourself to be influenced to vote for a particular candidate because the candidate is of the same ethnicity as yourself, instead decide which candidate to vote for based on, and only based on, the six items I have listed above.

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  3. CURRENTLY SAN LEANDRO IS WORKING ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA ORDINANCE. PAULINE CUTTER RUNNING FOR MAYOR TOOK $4900 POT MONEY FROM OWNER ZOCALO COFFEE HOUSE IN SAN LEANDRO. NEW OWNER OF ZOCALO SARA UBELHART IS MARRIED TO GIANT DAN GRACE MAFIA MARIJUANA DISTRIBUTOR FROM OAKLAND. NO TO MARIJUANA. NO TO PAULINE CUTTER.

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  4. The one person defending Benny Lee's action, and there is only one, seems to forget Benny Lee was elected to represent San Leandro not Oakland. That was a reprehensible action on his part, as San Leandro lost many millions over the life of the contract and hundreds of jobs. In other words —-he screwed the city he represents.

    Very few care that Sara Ubelhart gave money to Pauline Cutter because a majority of voters in California approve of medical marijuana and it's distribution. You are in the minority.

    What they don't approve of is our Vice Mayor Benny Lee telling Oakland it's ok if they take MILLIONS of dollars and jobs away from San Leandro. What San Leandro voters don't approve of this same company's director threw a fundraiser for Diana Souza after taking jobs and millions away from our city.

    What San Leandro voters don't approve of is flying the Chinese flag over city hall. Recall Benny Lee and don't vote for Souza for Mayor.

    Like

  5. Diana Souza has done nothing in her 8 years on the City Council. Her fellow Council members never voted her Vice Mayor under 2 different Mayors and Councils. They knew her best and never respected her. She is not well thought of in most of the city. Not voting for Benny Lee's puppets. He talks a lot but says nothing meaningful. When he does say something he cost the city he lives in, San Leandro, millions of dollars. Move to Oakland with your friends the Duong family. Take Souza with you.

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  6. Absolutely agree with 8:28. BTW the medical mmj ordinance already passed the city council by a 5-1 vote. Benny Lee was the only no vote and Diana Souza recused herself because her son works in a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland. This dispensary wants to put in a bid for San Leandro's dispensary.

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  7. Pauline Cutter shame on you!

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  8. Diana Souza has done nothing in her 8 years on the City Council. Her fellow Council members never voted her Vice Mayor under 2 different Mayors and Councils. They knew her best and never respected her. She is not well thought of in most of the city. Not voting for Benny Lee's puppets. He talks a lot but says nothing meaningful. When he does say something he cost the city he lives in, San Leandro, millions of dollars. Move to Oakland with your friends the Duong family. Take Souza with you.

    Like

  9. Shame on our Vice Mayor Benny Lee telling Oakland it's OK if they take MILLIONS of dollars and hundreds of JOBS away from San Leandro.

    Shame on Diana Souza for allowing this same company's director to throw a fundraiser for her after taking jobs and millions away from our city.

    Shame on Diana Souza and Benny Lee for wanting to fly the Chinese flag over city hall. Don't vote for Souza for Mayor and Benny Lee should dishonorably resign.

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  10. My husband and I like Pauline Cutter. She does try and find solutions to problems that the majority of Council can agree with instead of being so dictatorial and rigid like Souza. Pauline also has a better personality and has the ability to get along with more people, that Mayors need to be successful. Souza is too sour and seems to lack tact, which would make her a poor Mayor. Can't vote for Dilman, although even he has a better personality than Souza.

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