Alameda County supervisor candidate Vinnie Bacon sent a voicemail over the weekend to a prominent member of Fremont’s Sikh-American community threatening to end his participation in the local Democratic Party due to his support for Bacon’s opponent this fall, David Haubert.
Audio of Bacon’s voicemail to Fremont small businessowner Tejinder “T.J.” Dhami, obtained by the East Bay Citizen (audio below), begins with Bacon reiterating a campaign talking point that Haubert is a Republican who only recently became an independent. Haubert is registered as No Party Preference in the November election.
Bacon referenced Dhami’s recent participating in Haubert’s campaign, before adding, “I hope you know this will have severe repercussions as far as your ever wanting to work with the Democratic Party again,” Bacon said.
AUDIO | Bacon: ‘I hope you know this will have severe repercussions.’
“I am the Democratic Party endorsed candidate. Some may not like it, but that’s the way it is, and by working against the party like this, you’re basically jeopardizing any future work with Democratic party ever again.”
Dhami, a member of the Fremont Human Relations Commission, said he felt threatened by the voicemail, which came after several attempts by Bacon to get in touch with him over the past two weeks. He labeled Bacon “power hungry” and his words in the voicemail sounding “like the mafia.”
Dhami said he worries about his future in the party, but more so for less-connected individuals who might face Bacon’s wrath.
“We need to stop this kind of harassment, “Dhami said. “County supervisor is a powerful position, if he acts like this now it won’t stop.”
Dhami noted that Bacon worked closely with Fremont Mayor Lily Mei’s campaign in 2016, at a time, like Haubert today, when she was not a Democrat. Mei defeated Bill Harrison, the endorsed candidate of the Alameda County Democratic Party that year. “Why is there rules for Vinnie and other rules for everyone else?” Dhami said.
Bacon said he knows, firsthand, about the difficulties that can follow perceptions of disloyalty among local party leaders. “The same thing happened to me in 2016 when I backed Lily Mei,” he said.
Bacon’s support for Mei led, in some part, to several years of shunning by some Alameda County Democrats that only began to subside over the past year, and especially since the March primary, as the party rallies around Bacon’s bid for supervisor.
“Maybe it was a dumb decision,” Bacon said of the voicemail, “but I was mad. The voicemail is 100 percent accurate. There will be repercussions.”
Dhami, in fact, is already facing some of the consequences described by Bacon. The Ohlone Area United Democratic Campaign asked for Dhami’s resignation as the organization’s vice-chair just prior to receiving Bacon’s voicemail last Saturday, he said. Dhami initially balked, but relented and offered his resignation on Sunday. Dhami, however, will remain a member of the Ohlone Area UDC.
He suspects Bacon was behind the move, speculating that Mei’s unusual visit to Haubert’s Fremont campaign office late Saturday morning triggered the day’s chain of events after she saw Dhami speaking outside with the candidate. Mei denies having any involvement in notifying Bacon or any others about Dhami’s presence at Haubert’s headquarters. But a call from the Ohlone Area UDC asking for resignation and voicemail from Bacon followed a few hours later, Dhami said.
Bacon denies any involvement in seeking Dhami’s removal as vice-chair, but said the group had been contemplating the move for a few weeks upon suspicion Dhami was working with Haubert’s campaign.
With vote-by-mail ballot nearly a week away from appearing in mailboxes across the county, the race for District 1 supervisor is heading toward the home stretch. It’s a district that is almost evenly split between Fremont and the Tri-Valley and includes candidates uniquely tied to each region. The dynamic has led to a push by both campaigns to raise their name-recognition in each others backyard.
Bacon acknowledged the potential backlash he may feel from the Sikh community in District 1. The voicemail to Dhami has the potential to change the dynamic of the race since Dhami is influential within Fremont’s Sikh-American community, and also has ties to Sikh-American small businessowners in the Tri-Valley.