ALCO Dems denied endorsements to candidates taking police money, the plan appears to have worked

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

In July, Alameda County Democrats approved a resolution barring any prospective candidate in the November election from receiving the local party’s endorsement if they had or intend to accept campaign contributions from police unions.

The resolution, backed by Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price, and others, made accepting police union money a disqualifying factor in the upcoming endorsement process. It also called on Democratic candidates to pledge they would not to take money from law enforcement groups this year.

The resolution also stretches to the 2018 election cycle. Those who previously received donations were encouraged not to return them to police unions, but to donate the amount to social justice groups in Alameda County.

The move by the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee was viewed a major rebuke of Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s tenure, which has been littered with misconduct by deputies, inmate deaths, and the militarization of his department and other local police forces.

As Alameda County Democrats plan to finalize the party’s sought-after endorsements on Sept. 12, the resolution to rid local races of police union money appears to have been a success.

Out of roughly 150 candidates interviewed by central committee leaders for the upcoming election season, just one reported receiving contributions from police.

Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie accepted $500 from the Alameda Police Officers Association in early 2018. Oddie ran for re-election amid a City Hall scandal that included allegations made against him by the former city manager and Alameda police chief.

Oddie said he donated the police union contribution to an Alameda group and pledged not to accept them in the future. His declaration did not affect his ability to receive the party’s endorsement for this November.

Oddie’s endorsement, along with fellow Alameda incumbent Councilmember Malia Vella, was placed on the central committee’s consent calendar for final approval on Sept. 12.

The Alameda County Democratic Party’s backing is viewed by most candidates as a valuable endorsement that can provide low-information Democratic voters with a guidepost for choosing local candidates. To the more initiated in local politics, it often confers a candidate’s strong support for progressive values and the labor movement.

There is more than 300 candidates in all local races in Alameda County this fall, but not all of them are Democrats. Under the party’s bylaws, a non-Democrat cannot be considered for an endorsement. About half of the total candidates went through the party’s questionnaire and interview process over the past few months. Party officials acknowledged a candidate’s claim of being free from police union money was not verified by the central committee.

Meaning, it could be possible that a candidate receiving the party’s endorsement this fall could have benefited from police union money, or even accept their donations prior to Election Day. Doing so, however, and then actually winning the election, would likely risk something akin to excommunication from the local party.