The notion that Buffy Wicks’ campaign for the 15th Assembly District is devoid of corporate money and influence clearly did not resonate with a number of Berkeley voters during a heavily-attended candidate forum Tuesday night.
On two separate occasions, a number of those in attendance groaned, and snickered after Wicks told them she has taken a pledge against accepting campaign contributions from political action committees. Beckles has a similar pledge.
The murmur inside the Berkeley Community Theater was noticeably enough that it appeared to flummox Wicks and cause her to nervously pause during her remarks. The second time Wicks mentioned the pledge she appeared to rhetorically brace herself to a question about Citizens United, uttering a nervous “sure” before beginning to answer.
Later, when Wicks grasped for applause such as referencing members of the Democratic Party establishment like Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker as potential antidotes in 2020 to President Donald Trump, the line was met with relatively silence.
Wicks’ declaration that her campaign is corporate-free is not false, but not entirely the whole story. Despite her campaign raising more than $1.2 million in campaign fundraising since last year–an amount far exceeding anyone in the June primary and in the General Election against Richmond Councilmember Jovanka Beckles–her largest contributors are also highly influential donors in the world of charter schools and the establishment wing of the national Democratic Party. Wicks worked for both President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Furthermore, Wicks’ campaign is the beneficiary of more than $1 million in support from Independent Expenditure Committees, which by law cannot coordinate their efforts with the campaign, but also can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. Early indications are that IEs in support of Wicks are intending to open the spigot over the next few weeks in an effort to bolster her campaign’s chance over the last month of the election.
Wicks also received a muted response after the candidates were posed a question about who has influenced their own politics. Wicks chose Obama and issued effusive, almost lusty praise for the former president. “I love me some Barack Obama,” said Wicks. Whereas, Beckles choice of political influencers, former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, was met with loud applause.