Fifteenth Assembly District candidate Jovanka Beckles is charging opponent Buffy Wicks’ campaign with orchestrating a disruption intended to embarrass her during a forum Tuesday on disability issues. Beckles accused Wicks of “campaign dirty tricks” reminiscent of former Republican operatives Lee Atwater and David Brock.

Near the end of Tuesday’s forum, former Richmond Cuncilmember Vinay Pimplé interrupted the event and reiterated allegations has made in recent weeks that Beckles once mocked his disability. Pimplé is legally blind.

According to Beckles’ campaign, Pimplé was asked by the host of forum to sit down and allow the candidates to resume their closing statements.

Pimple Vinay
Former Richmond Councilmember Vinay Pimple.

Beckles’ campaign said the event was “engineered” by Wicks’ campaign, and alleged Pimplé was seated Tuesday with a member of Wicks’ campaign who was also recording the incident. In addition, they say, Dean Wallace, the campaign’s deputy director, then spirited away Pimplé in his car following the forum.

“Engineering the airing of a personal grudge by the Wicks campaign is redolent of campaign dirty tricks such as those carried out by operatives such as Lee Atwater and David Brock,” said Beckles’ campaign, which also noted that Brock and Wicks both worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The Wicks campaign did not respond for comment regarding the accusations made by the Beckles campaign. But Pimplé told the East Bay Citizen that his demonstration Tuesday was of his own making.

“It’s deeply offensive to suggest that my comments are anything other than a genuine response to Jovanka Beckles’ behavior when she attacked me, an incident that was widely reported on and corroborated, he said in an email. “It’s a sad fact that many attempt to deny disabled people their own agency in politics and society. I won’t let that happen. I won’t be silenced. Jovanka must account for her attacks on me and my disability.”

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in Berkeleyside, Pimplé said Beckles mocked his disability following a Richmond City Council meeting in 2016. According to Pimplé, Beckles told him, “You’re disgusting. I want to tell you about the things you can’t see.”

In response, the Beckles campaign said the candidates “deeply regrets that the Wicks campaign is exploiting for political gain an individual’s anger. In the meeting subsequent to the original event in 2015, Ms. Beckles apologized to Mr. Pimplé for any perceived insult,” Beckles’ campaign said, and that she has a granddaughter who is blind and with limited mobility.

With less than two months before Election Day, the race in the 15th District has taken a decidedly aggressive turn. This week, the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America released a website that aims to link Wicks’ extensive number of campaign contributors to charter school proponents, individuals within the Democratic Party establishment, and even conservatives.

This comes prior to the expected influx of well-financed Independent Expenditure Committees that have been the hallmark of nearly every intra-party legislative contest in the East Bay over the past six years.