2018: Wild and wacky in East Bay politics

The East Bay Citizen has always been about poking fun at politicians, highlighting the ridiculous, comedic, and outrageously stupid comments made over the course of the year. This year proved to be a treasure chest of humorous moments. Some were outright slapstick. Some cringe-worthy dopey.

For pure comedy, no other stories in 2018 beat a viral video showing Fremont Councilmember David Bonaccorsi fumbling and bumbling to retrieve one of his campaign mailers while canvassing door-to-door in October. The footage was captured by a homeowners doorbell camera. The video is innocent enough. Bonaccorsi later poked fun at himself by adding music to the video. But that outfit! The fact that Bonaccorsi looked like a middle-aged dad on vacation at Disney World probably didn’t help his chances at the ballot box.

Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is someone who often flashes a devilish sense of humor, put on a Saturday Night Live-level schtick when appearing on Fox News with host Tucker Carlson in January. Kaplan has a proclivity for quoting Scripture during public meetings, donned a prayer shawl for the remote appearance and then hilariously attempted to quote from the Torah, before Carlson quickly tamped down her attempt.Liu Peter

There was Oakland provocateur Peter Liu, who somehow got 10,000 people in the state to vote for him to be governor. His second bid for Oakland mayor was again very unsuccessful. But nobody is better at clowning an unsuspecting political audience with his dry wit. (Which bring to mind another matter: Why is Oakland so unfunny?) As a modern-day Pat Paulson, Liu proposed turning Lake Merritt into an amusement park and used this photo for the official election guide.

And this…your future president?

Swalwell Have you seen my baseball

As for the cringe-worthy funny, Oakland mayoral candidate Ken Houston proved that he doesn’t read the newspaper. Houston is well-known for boosting his profile by posting man on the street videos on Facebook. But when he went to the East Bay Times for an endorsement interview, he didn’t appreciate having to wait on its editors. Houston walked out of their offices and went on a long diatribe against them. One problem, though. He repeatedly referred to them as the East Bay Express.

Another trait for 2018 was politicians willing to lie in order to get out of comedic jams of their own making. Audio of Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett during a traffic stop for running a red light showed the misplaced bravado and self-importance of the first-term councilmember. Worse, it showed that he operates under a quid pro quo system of governance.

White lies appeared in Alameda when a potential candidate for the Alameda City Council named Amos White waited until the last minute to complete his filing papers. He was just minutes late and did not qualify for the November ballot. But White called a press conference on the steps of City Hall and doubled down on the lie, and concocted an uneven, even implausible story to cover his grave error. Did the city clerk screw up? Yes, but no. But maybe. No, she’s been great. It’s one of the strangest stories ever.

We pause for the Reading of the Numbers…

“What were they thinking?” is typically a good jumping off point for comedy. What was imbecilic Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer thinking when she attempted to abstain from a Metropolitan Transportation Authority vote to endorse the June Regional Measure 3, which included an inordinate amount of sweeteners benefiting Alameda? Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who chairs the MTC, blasted Spencer.

“Trish, I’m really not arguing with you. I’m trying to be respectful. When you’re here, when you’re here, I mean, this is a voting record that could be used against you,” Haggerty lectured. Turnout out Spencer had worse things in record to dissuade Alameda voters from re-electing her in November. How about voting against the popular raising of the minimum wage, opposing housing for teacher, and flying to China two weeks before Election Day?

What was Rep. Ro Khanna’s congressional district director thinking when he suggested during a Fremont City Council meeeting that Rep. Mike Honda lacked ethics? The comment was unprovoked and only risked upsetting the pro-Honda progressives Khanna is trying to woo.

On a slightly different, what must 15th Assembly District candidate Jovanka Beckles have been thinking when her big-time progressive endorsers couldn’t seem to get their acts together. Rep. Barbara Lee hesitated in June and July and did not endorse Beckles before doing so late in the fall campaign. The arrival in late October of Sen. Bernie Sanders for a rally with Lee in Berkeley appeared to be the perfect moment to coalesce momentum for Beckles against the Hillary Clinton acolyte Buffy Wicks. But Lee’s office reportedly screwed up the endorsement leaving Beckles holding the bag. Two days later, Sanders backed Beckles, but the embarrassment for Beckles’ campaign remained. It’s no wonder Lee again flubbed her chance at being elected the House Democratic leadership team.

Downright stupid had its moments in 2018. An Alamedan claimed Assemblymember Rob Bonta is not an American citizen. A group led by the same person attempted to recall an Alameda councilmember, but couldn’t explain the reasons why. People, Alameda is weird!

The Alameda Labor Council elicited rounds of WTF! all over the East Bay when they said alleged domestic abuser and AC Transit Boardmember Joel Young “embodies” the values of the labor movement. Hilarious, if it wasn’t so demented.

But not all politicians were unsavory in their wackiness. For example, take Alameda City Council candidate Tony Daysog, who showed that even in comedy, there is hope when he essentially tattled on himself in an unsolicited email to the local press over a potential, likely small scale, campaign finance violation. In a post-election interview, he said his return to the Alameda City Council shows that “Daysog is a name you can trust.”

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