The influential Alameda Labor Council recently endorsed the re-election of AC Transit board member and accused domestic abuser Joel Young, and was actively lobbying members of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee to do the same right up until the eve of the party’s endorsement meeting last Saturday. The effort by labor, however, rankled some central committee members who took exemption with their decision to endorse Young.
The accusations against Young in 2011 by a girlfriend who said he struck her in the face after she found him one morning in bed in his Oakland apartment with another woman, derailed his candidacy for the 18th Assembly District seat and subsequently sent him into virtual political purgatory at the transit agency board.
Young won re-election to his AC Transit seat in 2014 without much competition and the domestic violence matter was rarely mentioned. Young, an attorney, however, was censured by his AC Transit board colleagues in 2013 after being found to have used district property for personal gain as part of his employment with a law firm representing other transit agencies who were involved in similar labor negotiations as one potentially facing the AC Transit board.
In addition, over the years, Young has proven to be strong supporter of unions as a member of the AC Transit board, leading to the letter of support for his re-election and two other candidates for separate seats on the AC Transit board to central committee members last week.
“All three candidates embody the values of the working families we represent and have the experience to serve our communities,” wrote Elizabeth Ortega-Toro, the new Alameda Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer.
Labor’s overt support for Young, however, upset some central committee members, who then responded negatively to the recommendation.
In a response via email, Mario Juarez, a long-time member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee wrote, “I think the Central Labor Council provides an excellent guide to good endorsements, but on this one I need to call bullshit on the endorsement of Young. Really? I will actively work towards opposing him. Terrible.”
Despite the late effort by Ortega-Toro on behalf of Young, the central committee’s steering committee last month had already made a preliminary decision to not make an endorsement in Young’s race against former bus driver Dollene Jones, which is a rematch from 2014.
“The one saving grace,” wrote another central committee member, Marga Lacabe, “is that nobody nominated Joel for the Democratic endorsement. I am happy that at least we can agree that domestic abusers do not deserve the Party’s endorsement.”
Young’s domestic violence incident back in 2011 came during a tumultuous 12-month period in Alameda County politics that also included Supervisor Nadia Lockyer’s resignation from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors following her battles with substance abuse and former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi’s brush with the law that included an arrest for shoplifting at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.
But Young’s incident was easily the least publicized, a dynamic unlikely to have been the case if the accusation had been reported in today’s era of the MeToo movement. Unlike Lockyer and Hayashi, Young was able to keep his seat, although, his prospects for another office has been greatly diminished in the years that followed.
Back in late 2011, Young was viewed as a strong contender to win the Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro seat in the Assembly until reports of a restraining order resulting from an accusation earlier in the year that he struck his girlfriend in the face and caused significant swelling and bruising around her eye. Young was also alleged with “cranking”the woman head against the bed.
Young was in a romantic tryst with another woman in his apartment before the domestic violence incident allegedly occurred. Young though fought back against the temporary restraining order and filed his own against the now ex-girlfriend.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobsen dismissed each restraining order, but not before noting the severity of bruising on the accuser’s face and her petite physical stature.
“The injuries she sustained go well beyond the reasonable need to self-defend,” said Jacobsen. “There were significant injuries on her. Well, more than necessary for a man, and I am going to take into account that it appears to me that [she] is approximately 5-foot, 120 pounds.”
For good measure, Jacobsen also noted inconsistencies in the ex-girlfriend’s story.
Over the years, Young has been able to limit damage from following the incident by diminishing his accuser’s credibility and claiming the matter was thrown out of court, when in fact, only the restraining orders were dismissed.
The effort by Young to discredit the domestic violence claims have been largely successful. Two members of the central committee who declined to speak on the record acknowledged Young’s past, but also asserted they have no way of knowing the full account of what happened between him and the woman who accused him.