|Hayward City Council candidates (pictured clockwise): Councilmember Al Mendall, Matt McGrath, Councilmember Elisa Marquez, Mark Salinas, and Councilmember Francisco Zermeno.|
MEET THE CANDIDATES Every four years in Hayward, voters have the unique opportunity to alter a majority of their city council. However, Hayward voters have also been strangely adverse to casting a ballot on a regular basis. A charter amendment on the June ballot hopes to move mayoral and council elections to November starting in 2018. The belief is higher overall turnout in November will foster greater participation. At least, that is what SEIU Local 1021 is selling. The measure’s aim, say opponents, is really to sweep out council members who in the past have been unfriendly to labor. A five percent wage cut unilaterally imposed by the council in 2013 was found last December to be illegal. Three of the seven councilmembers who supported the imposition are seeking one of the four open seats this June. Councilmember Al Mendall is one. Many believe he has eyes on one day being Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s heir apparent. To do so, Mendall has a tricky highwire act on his hand to gain the trust of labor. During the campaign, he has gone to great length to prove his progressive chops and has bent over backwards to give himself credit for beginning to rebuild the city’s business sector. Councilmember Francisco Zermeno also voted for the wage cut, but said in April that his “imposition days are over.” Known for his catchphrase “Hayward on!”, Zermeno’s political history has shown a knack for doing just enough to grab the last open seat at election time. Mark Salinas, a former councilmember who ran for mayor in 2014 instead of running for re-election to his seat, is the third candidate in the race who voted for imposition. Of the three, Salinas has shown to be the most resolute in defense of his vote. Salinas has also stayed connected to the community through his altruistic endeavors during his hiatus from local government.
Appointed Councilmember Elisa Marquez is running her first political campaign and has proven adept at fundraising. Threading the needle between keeping labor happy and also the local chamber of commerce, Marquez raised more than $70,000 during this election cycle and leads the pack with over $38,000 in the bank through the last pre-primary finance filing period. Matt McGrath, a retired former Hayward department head, also raised significant money ($27,000) and is the viewed as the outsider candidate capable of snagging the fourth seat on the council. Although McGrath was once part of management, he’s labor guy in the race. As the campaign has progressed, McGrath has voiced a determination to improve sour relations between Hayward City Hall and labor. Brian Schott, a former Hayward mayoral candidate with ties to the business community, also has an outside shot. In addition, Hayward school board member John Taylor is also in the race, although his presence has been light. He only raised a few thousand dollars for the campaign. If Taylor does not succeed on Tuesday, he is up for re-election to the school board in November. The rest of the field includes community activist and fervent anti-fluoride crusader Wynn Grcich, real estate broker Leo Ram, and security guard Kenneth Rollins.
WHAT’S THE BEEF? Once one-term Hayward Councilmember Greg Jones announced in March that he would not seek re-election, this entire race completely changed. It went from five strong candidates running for four open seats to four seeking four. However, the emergence of McGrath and his strong fundraising, especially for a newcomer, again changed the calculus. In addition, labor’s continual inability to field competitive candidates in Hayward allowed incumbents like Zermeno, and Mendall, along with former council mate Salinas to skate without answering to their controversial and illegal wage imposition. However, when they were confronting by the labor question, for instance, during a disastrous endorsement meeting with the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, they looked and sounded ridiculous. Meanwhile, this race has been all about old Hayward tropes like overly broad ideas for rebuilding the downtown as a destination point, how to improve or scrap the notorious Hayward Loop, a virtual freeway that careens through the downtown, and how to help the struggling Hayward school district. It’s a conversation that has dominated elections every two years since at least 2010 and without much improvement.
PAST RESULTS 2012 June election (Choose 4): 1. Barbara Halliday 8,464 (18.49%) 2. Greg Jones 7,431 (16.23%) 3. Al Mendall 7,312 (15.97%) 4. Francisco Zermeno 7,131 (15.58%) 5. Olden Henson 6,535 (14.28%) 6. Peter Bufete 2,648 (5.78%) 7. Ralph Farias, Jr. 2,401 (5.25%) 8. Shahla Azimi 2,072 (4.53%) 9 Fahim Khan 1,696 (3.71%)
CAMPAIGN FINANCE (Through May 21): Marquez $70,402 total raised; $38,871 cash on hand; Mendall $22,745 total raised, $36,895 cash on hand, $22,745 debt; Zermeno $$36,107 total raised, $8,336 cash on hand, $16,000 debt.
McGrath $27,073 total raised, $10,549 cash on hand; Salinas $20,713 total raised, $8,193 cash on hand; Schott $17,150 total raised, $10,293 cash on hand; Taylor $3,288, $5,792 cash on hand.
OUTLOOK Zermeno should thank his lucky stars. For the last six races Zermeno has run he’s been on the razor’s edge of winning and losing. This year, he shrewdly joined forces with Mendall and Marquez, in a unique slate, at least, for city council elections. That’s great for Zermeno because Mendall and Marquez are closest things to a lock in this race and he could use the help. “Hayward On!” withstanding. The Hayward Chamber of Commerce is also backing the three, along with Schott and gave $1,295 maximum donations to each. When it comes to Salinas, you won’t go many blocks in Hayward without seeing one of his signs and he’s done a fine job a setting the stage for his comeback over the past year and a half by maintaining strong ties to the community and sending out email blasts on a regular basis. If the quartet of Mendall, Marquez, Salinas and Zermeno is indeed sworn into office next month, don’t expect many changes from the current moderate to conservative vibe on this council. Salinas is loathed by the local Democratic Party and he and Zermeno famously do not get along. Also, there remains uncertainty among progressives and labor about Mendall, Marquez and Zermeno, but simply “hugging it out” is a possibility. That being said, keep an eye on whether City Manager Fran David leaves the scene through retirement. If blame for the labor mess does not rest with the actual officials who voted for it, then that honor goes to David. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be much hope on the horizon for SEIU to find any labor-friendly candidates in the future. However, they can take solace that even with at least two more years of a moderate majority of council members, these group of public officials collectively learned their lesson about the turmoil that labor can inflicted on sitting member of the Hayward City Council.
PREDICTION 1. Mendall 2. Marquez 3. Salinas 4. Zermeno 5. McGrath 6. Schott 7. Taylor 8-10. Ram, Grcich, Rollins.