ELECTIONLINE: Polling in AD15; union’s love affair with Abel Guillen is over; Alameda candidate’s past conviction; healthcare district coup

15TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
While Buffy Wicks’ assembly campaign, as far as we know, has not yet poll-tested whether its staff should order Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese for dinner, there are indications the poll-obsessed, and well-funded campaign is again compiling data in advance of their fall campaign against Richmond Councilmember Jovanka Beckles. Wicks’ camp has sent into the wild both a phone-based survey and a web-based poll to prospective voters recently. The web-based poll appears very similar to the exhaustive survey from last January. The prior poll appeared to test the pulse of voters on issues like charter schools and their affinity for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, in addition, to questions about her primary opponents that, in some cases, bordered on push polling. The recent surveys tested ideas such as the importance of a candidates possessing a record of national accomplishment versus a candidate with a record for local advocacy. Wicks worked in the Obama administration and worked on passing the Affordable Care Act, while Beckles has served on the Richmond City Council since 2010. But Wicks’ campaign is apparently also testing a number of smears against Beckles, according to those who have seen or listened to the surveys. The first being a 2015 resolution backed by Beckles and approved by the Richmond City Council calling for a ban on space-based weapons and mind-controlling microchips in residents. The second, an assertion that Beckles has the worst attendance record on the council.

AD15 Nov collage
15th Assembly District candidates Jovanka Beckles and Buffy Wicks.

EDEN HEALTH DISTRICT
The rumblings about former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s desire to return to elected office were confirmed this week, but it’s not city politics that he aims to join, but the Eden Health District Board of Directors, which covers San Leandro, unincorporated Alameda County and parts of Hayward. Cassidy has past connections to the health care board. As mayor, he was once a staunch critic of the district board that once oversaw operations of San Leandro Hospital. Last year, he was an applicant for the district’s open CEO position. But another layer of intrigue was added to Cassidy’s campaign when San Leandro businessman Gordon Galvan joined the race at the Friday filing deadline. Cassidy and Galvan have links to San Leandro’s Davis Street Wellness Center medical cannabis dispensary. Cassidy is employed as legal counsel for the umbrella group that will operate the dispensary. Galvan also has a role with the dispensary, but his financial interests are unclear. Earlier this year, the dispensary’s partner, the non-profit Davis Street Family Resource Center, sought a $300,000 loan from the Eden Health District to help them reconcile a debt to the city of San Leandro. Paying off the loan allowed the dispensary owners to move into the building of the San Leandro non-profit that had previously been purchased using federal funding. The Eden Health District board denied Davis Street’s ask, but the sudden interest of Cassidy and Galvan in running for the district’s three at-large seats raises questions about whether this board, which has a history of being stacked by special interests–in past distant past, Sutter Health–is now being targeted by the cannabis industry.

Bas Nikki Fortunate
Oakland District 2 City Council candidate Nikki Forunato Bas has effectively removed what was once her opponent Councilmember Abel Guillen’s greatest asset–union support.

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL D2
There was a time not too long ago when Abel Guillen had little trouble piling up labor union endorsements. But in recent years, the Oakland District 2 councilmember has become a pariah for unions, especially for the strongly-held belief that Guillen failed to support SEIU Local 1021 workers during contentious labor negotiations late last year with the city of Oakland. The end result was a strike. Now District 2 challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas has become the unions’ darling. The shift toward Bas represents a major obstacle for Guillen’s re-election this fall. Bas has received endorsements from the powerful California Nurses Union and SEIU Local 1021, in addtion, to the Amalgamated Transit Union, Unite Here! Local 2850, and the Alameda Labor Council. The latter, Bas’s campaign highlighted in a press release Friday by noting the Alameda Labor Council’s 60-6 vote in support of her campaign. But while political endorsements can sometime have nebulous meaning to voters, the collection of labor unions at Bas’s side represents a tangible benefit: potential throngs of union members canvassing District 2 in her support over the next few months.

Chen Stewart
Alameda City Council candidate Stewart Chen 

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
Alameda’s vocal minority of anti-growth and rabid anti-firefighters union voters often rail against the progressive, unsurprisingly pro-labor City Council majority. Their rhetoric, however, has consistently failed to round-up credible candidates in recent years. This fall’s race for two open seats may not amount to much in terms of new blood. Two of the possible front-runners in the race–Tony Daysog and Stewart Chen–have been both winners and losers in recent Alameda council races. But while Daysog’s weakness may be an island electorate that has swung to the left, Chen has an old controversy left over from years ago that is likely to resurface since it was never sufficiently explained or tamped down in 2014. Chen was involved in a multi-million dollar insurance fraud scheme in 1992 that included his chiropractic office. He was convicted, fined $50,000, and the charge was later expunged from his record. But when the conviction came to light during the 2014 council campaign Chen presented the expungement as proof that it somehow never happened. He later added, “I didn’t do anything wrong” and “they didn’t have anything on me.” The controversy unsurprisingly hung over Chen during the campaign and he failed to retain the seat which he won in 2012 only after Rob Bonta gave up the seat following election to the assembly. Chen also mulled a run for the City Council two years ago. It’s difficult to see how Chen avoids the matter this fall. A simple Google search of “Stewart Chen, Alameda” offers the article detailing his conviction right below his campaign website.

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