The Campaign Column: A Dem dispute

The Campaign Column: A Dem dispute

Michele Ellson

Some City of Alameda Democratic Club members say this mailer implies the club endorsed candidates members didn't endorse.

Members of the City of Alameda Democratic Club are fuming over a mailer the club’s leadership sent to local voters that they say appeared to extend the club’s imprimatur to candidates its members didn’t endorse, while others are upset that the club’s campaign office offers campaign materials from some of the same candidates. A few are so upset they said they’re quitting the club in protest.

Local Dem club members endorsed Rob Bonta for the state Assembly, Marie Gilmore for mayor and Jim Oddie for City Council, along with two candidates – Tracy Jensen and Jim Meyers – for seats on the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors. The club also endorsed two ballot measures, the Measure I school bond and Measure BB, which would extend funds for transportation projects.

But in addition to candidates club members did endorse, a mailer bearing its logo featured Councilman Stewart Chen, school board candidates Solana Henneberry and Mike McMahon, BART Board candidate Lena Tam and Alameda County Office of Education superintendent candidate Karen Monroe, none of whom were endorsed by the local Democratic club.

“On this mailing, HALF of the individuals featured on the flyer were NOT endorsed by the club. Which means that whoever produced this flyer, using the club's funds and the club's good name, have made it seem as if the club endorsed these candidates along with the ones it actually did endorse,” Dan Wood wrote to friends and neighbors on an informal e-mail list. Wood said he quit the club in protest.

Member Karen Green said campaign literature and signs for Chen, Henneberry and Tam are at the club’s campaign headquarters alongside materials for candidates its members endorsed. A Facebook photo of the club’s Alameda South Shore Center-based campaign headquarters showed a campaign sign for Chen alongside others for Gilmore and Oddie; underneath the post containing the photo, a couple who belong to the club wrote that they, too, planned to quit.

“I just hate the deception,” Green said, saying she thinks the presence of the materials at the club’s HQ implies an endorsement.

Both said the club’s endorsement carries a lot of weight, particularly for registered Democrats who haven’t yet decided who to vote for.

Gray Harris, the former Alameda Education Association president and now co-chair of the local club, said the club is a charter of the county Democratic committee and that it routinely campaigns for candidates the county committee endorses (the county committee endorsed Monroe, Chen, McMahon and Henneberry). She said the local club’s executive committee held a public vote to release the mailer supporting all of the candidates and that it spent political action committee money to pay for it, and not club dues.

“We campaign for candidates that have been endorsed by the central committee as well as those endorsed by our local club. Nothing that happened this year is out of the ordinary from years past,” said Harris.

The club's most recent campaign filing shows it took in $3,000 between July 1 and September 30, $2,500 from Bonta's campaign and another $500 from the re-election campaign of State Senator Loni Hancock. McMahon, who is the local Dem club's treasurer, said the mailer expenditure will be on its next filing, due later this month. The eight-person executive board’s membership includes Harris, McMahon and Henneberry, along with co-chair Sarah Oddie.

Harris dismissed the complaints, saying the club members who raised them with her are upset that the club didn’t endorse mayoral candidate Trish Spencer or council candidate Frank Matarrese, and she said she's answered questions about the concerns that were expressed. Green called that charge "off the wall," saying she plans to vote for Gilmore and that she has installed a sign on her lawn promoting Oddie's campaign.

"No one I know is upset with the headquarters having Marie's literature because she was in fact endorsed by the club and there is no deception involving Marie. She does not seem to get that we are upset because of being deceived," Green said.

Harris said the local campaign office is a unified office that supports candidates endorsed by county club and the Democratic Party, though Green questioned whether that is the case. She said that may have been true in prior years when the local club got money from the county club, but she provided an e-mail showing that hasn’t happened this election season. The club's most recent filing did not show a contribution from the county Dem committee.

The club’s bylaws and constitution don’t appear to explicitly address how candidate endorsement conflicts between clubs are handled.

Wood, who said in his e-mail to friends that he personally supports some of the candidates featured on the mailer who the club didn’t endorse, told The Alamedan he thinks club leadership could have made it clearer on the mailer who was and wasn’t endorsed locally.

“There are infinite number of ways that the information about the endorsements *could* have been presented. Whoever designed the flyer chose to present it in such a way that made it appear that the (local club) endorsed those candidates,” Wood said. “If the (club’s) endorsements are going to be overridden like this, why bother going through the theater of having club endorsements at all?”

Finance filing follies: Late last week we got an e-mail from Measure I opponent David Howard accusing the school bond’s proponents of failing to file campaign finance forms. We checked in with the Yes on I campaign and found out that they had indeed filed their forms and that they were filed on time – just in the wrong place.

The forms were filed with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters instead of the City Clerk’s office, a snafu City Clerk Lara Weisiger attributed to bad advice from the ROV.

The campaign to pass the measure has so far pulled in more than $26,000, the filings show, with backers over the past few months including a trio of law firms that have done work for the school district, the bond counsel that worked on the bond proposal and the architect that drafted the district’s facilities master plan – a precursor to the bond proposal on the ballot.

Last week a pair of local trade unions – representing the carpenters and sheet metal workers – gave a combined $10,000 to the pro-I campaign, filings show. The filings reviewed by The Alamedan covered the most filing period, from July 1 to September 30, and later filings required for checks of $1,000 or more.

As to the whereabouts of his own campaign finance forms, Howard said he hasn’t filed any for the No on I campaign because his committee, Save Our City! Alameda, hasn’t raised the $1,000 that triggers the filing requirement. During our e-mail exchange with him regarding his press release, Howard questioned whether we had the mettle to tell readers about what the Yes on I campaign had raised, and from whom.

“The question is whether you will dare to write about it, and/or whether the powers that be will allow you to write about it,” he said.


Submitted by Janet Gibson (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

When big money from self-serving interest groups & individuals dominates and confuses the campaign process, voters often show their dismay, disgust, and distrust by VOTING NO, REJECTING INCUMBENTS, and REPUDIATING EXISTING LEADERSHIP. While some "innocents" will suffer in the process, this seems the only way to cleanse what has become a distortion of the democratic process.

Submitted by Karen Green (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

Because I could not get any information from the Alameda County Central Central Committee I called the state democratic party and was told that this year the South Shore office is not a UDC office. Because the check for insurance on the headquarters and paperwork filed with the state party was signed by Sarah Oddie, club co-president, the headquarters was just a local party office this year. To verify what I heard Linda Mutch, who also resigned her membership, called the state party and was told exactly what I was. Ms Gray cannot seem to understand the word "deception." She maintains that we are angry because our candidates were not endorsed even though many were.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

I'm an independent who usually votes for Democrats. This kind of thing is exactly why I've resisted changing my voting status, in spite of that fact. Corruption and backroom deals are not just confined to "those other guys." Our political system is broken and desperately needs fixing. Bonta and Gilmore have engaged in cronyism with Tam and other for years. Not surprised their supporters rigged this. Glad the club had members of integrity who blew the whistle.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

Hey folks: Just a quick little reminder that we don't publish anything that could even remotely be construed as a personal attack. Respectful disagreement and discussion about issues and positions is OK, but personal comments are not. Thanks for your understanding and cooperation.

Submitted by Hermione (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

I'm in total agreement with Janet Gibson and luczai above that our "dismay, disgust, and distrust" is best expressed by voting "NO." I had planned to vote for Marie Gilmore, Rob Bonta, and others, but I am now "REJECTING INCUMBENTS." I "REPUDIATE EXISTING LEADERSHIP." I also feel that our political system "is broken and desperately needs fixing" and that "Bonta and Gilmore have engaged in cronyism ... and rigged this." I'm not a member of the club and now will never be. The Republicans don't have to worry about defeating us. The Democrats are doing it to themselves.

Submitted by Judith (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

Recently I heard that Diego Gonzales works part-time as a paid staffer for Rob Bonta and is also being paid by the City of Alameda Dem. Club to run their SouthShore office part-time. I was also told he works for the Firefighter's union. Does the club follow no rules? Appears incestuous to me.

Submitted by elliott gorelick (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

Sorry Michelle, but there is context that makes my comment about Dan Wood relevant. For many years he has maintained a large email list and been friendly with the Democratic establishment. He, at one time, had a blog that touted these relationships as well as other commentary. Wood ran for several Democratic functionary positions including delegate. For him, in particular, to complain about the "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine" nature of City o Alameda politics is sour grapes at best, and hypocritical at worst.

Submitted by elliott gorelick (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

I think you missed the relevant dispute. I believe it is probably Rob Raeburn vs. Lena Tam. That would be the one where a significant number of CADC members would feel put upon.

Submitted by Karen Green (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

In defense of Dan Wood, he, like many others are angry at the DECEPTION by the city democratic club this year concerning endorsements. When I found out at the last meeting which I attended as a guest that my money was used to pay for the $6000 mailers my gasp was heard by everyone.

Submitted by Karen (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

No Elliot, it is also Chen vs Matarrese, neither of them were endorsed but Chen appears on the mailer. As an aside Frank did receive more votes than Stewart at the endorsement meeting.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

I personally like all the candidates listed on the flier and will be voting for them, and I support all the measures listed so I'm not upset.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

Hi Elliott,

I didn't publish your original, one-line comment because it is in its entirety a personal attack on Dan Wood, and that doesn't contribute to the constructive discussion of local issues I'm seeking to promote on The Alamedan. Your second comment I've published for illustrative purposes (apologies Dan, and thanks for bearing with me).

Aside from the facts that personal attacks are, well, lame, they tend to be a huge distraction that typically sidetracks (or stops) any constructive discussion about the article that was posted. Your other comment, which I've posted, touches on an interesting phenomenon: An apparent shift in the local power structure. But no one on here will talk about it, because we're all too distracted by your personal comments about Dan.

I think The Alamedan can boast the best-informed, smartest and most engaged readers in town, so I expect that all of my readers can offer intelligent comments on the issues without making things personal.

'Nuff said?

Submitted by elliott gorelick (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

What power shift? There's nothing new here. Every single one of the candidates on the flyer are Democratic Establishment. The combination of identity politics and organized labor along with being ingratiated to the right people is the same as always.

I guess my comment goes more broadly than to Dan. It's like people are shocked, shocked that's there's politics going on around here. I singled out Dan because he has, in the past, been quite forward about defending the same kind of BS when it wasn't his ox being gored.

Submitted by shelley (not verified) on Wed, Oct 15, 2014

I believe Ms Bey has missed the point. As succinctly stated by Ms. Green, this is not about politics and it is not about Ms Bey's individual choice -it is about deception. And as defined by Merriam Webster - Deception is beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs of things that are not true, or not the whole truth (as in half-truths or omission).

And this entire situation

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

Hey Elliott: To answer your question, I think what I'm observing is that a group of folks engaged in local politics who I'd perceived to be aligned on issues and candidates is splintering a bit over the candidacy of Frank Matarrese (eg, a number of folks who I've perceived to be aligned with the folks who are in power now - some of whom have voiced opposition to Frank's candidacy for a council seat - have said they plan to vote for Frank).

Submitted by Leland T. (not verified) on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

I commend Michele Ellson for writing about the dishonest (and possibly illegal) way the City of Alameda Democratic Club conducts its business. (Even though it did take some prodding.) Good work, Michele.

Submitted by Adam Gillitt (not verified) on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

This sure reminds me of when I ran four years ago. There was exactly the same problem with displaying signs in the window of the CADC office for their chosen candidates, whether or not the membership endorsed them... It is nice to see the change of heart from Karen Green about this, as she was a key player in perpetuating this deception four years ago.

Submitted by Karen Green (not verified) on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

Adam, I did not really have a change of heart. Four years ago I was concerned with the same issue, deception. The city club endorsed Robert Raburn and the Central Committee did not. The county committee came in and said we could not display Robert's literature and we had to remove it and put out Carol Brown literature. That was deceptive and frankly I did not go along with it. I kept Robert's material available. Leading the public into thinking the city club endorsed someone they did not is deception.

Submitted by elliott gorelick (not verified) on Fri, Oct 17, 2014


My comment was not directed at you. My comment was directed at every single member of the CADC who thinks that it is a representative organization for Democrats in Alameda rather than another establishment institution with its own agenda. I'm a Democrat; Adam Gillitt is a Democrat; Trish Spencer is a Democrat, but it is clear that we and others similarly situated have no place at the table. I Stewart Chen hadn't been convicted of insurance fraud many years ago, I suspect that the institutional inertia of his incumbency, his politicking, his ethnic background, and his labor support would make the Matarrese coalition within the CADC a non-issue. The idea that "old Alameda" has been a part of the CADC power structure any time in the last 10 years seems wrong to me so the talk of a power shift does not resonate with me.

Submitted by Richard Hausman (not verified) on Mon, Oct 20, 2014

Great job, Michele! Even though I'm in Peru until the end of the month, I am following the issue closely and you have done an excellent job of objective reporting!

Submitted by Karen Green (not verified) on Fri, Oct 24, 2014

I am no longer a member of the democratic club and resigned before this column was written.