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Controversial Endorsement by County Democrats

At least 70% of Richmond’s 36,331 registered voters are declared Democrats, and many of them are shaking their heads in disbelief about a recent vote by the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County (DPCCC) to endorse Bates, Marquez and Sandhu for Richmond City Council.


It turns out that nine of ten candidates for Richmond City Council, including me, were interviewed by an “Elections Committee” made up predominantly of Democratic Party activists from outside Richmond and chaired by Brian Lawrence, Vice-Chair of the Central Committee, who lives in Walnut Creek ((925) 465-6118, btl@btlawrence.com).

In a secret process, the “Elections Committee” somehow arrived at a list of three recommended candidates (Bates, Marquez and Sandhu) and submitted them to the Contra Costa Democratic Central committee, Chaired by Chuck Carpenter, (925) 435-5428, chuckcarpenter@aol.com. The Central Committee subsequently accepted the “Elections Committee” recommendations without debate on a consent calendar. Although this action occurred at the General Meeting of the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee on September 18, which is open to the public, no one told us candidates what the Election Committee’s recommendations were going to be or that we should show up again at the General Meeting to promote ourselves for a second time. In fact, the whole process was cloaked in mystery and secrecy – certainly not very Democratic. In any event, I was out of town that night and would not have been able to attend.


Richmond Democrats are upset for several reasons. First of all, many of them do not support the DPCCC’s selection and feel that it misrepresents local Democrats, who were not involved in the process. They feel that the selection process should have involved exclusively Richmond Democrats, not outsiders. Second, they can’t understand particularly how Nat Bates made the cut. Bates has, bar none, the worst environmental record of any Richmond councilmember as well as a long history of supporting big developers, big business and big oil.


Andres Soto, who heads up one of Richmond’s two Democratic Clubs, wrote to the Democratic Central Committee members and alternates:


It is unfortunate that the Democratic Central Committee made this endorsement this year. While the DCC has the privilege to endorse in this race and has done it in years past, it clearly does not represent the wishes of many of the Richmond Democrats and community members in general. In 2004, when Richmond was in crisis, I ran for Richmond City Council as a progressive agent for change and enjoyed the support of the CLC and the DCC. Thus, I am extremely disappointed at this turn of events.
As President of the West Contra Costa Latina/o Democratic Club, I know I was not consulted in any fashion about the endorsement and had I been asked I would have given my reasons for vigorously opposing these three endorsed candidates, the Chevron 3.
I see this as part of the pay back to the Chevron 3 for voting against the interests and desires of the Richmond community by caving into the Republican dominated corporatocracy in Richmond. The City Council vote on the Chevron proposal is one of the most blatant examples of ignoring the will of the people and supporting special interests groups. These candidates are puppets for Republican interests that dominate Richmond politics: Chevron, the Richmond Chamber, Council of Industries and the RPOA and RFA 188.
The sad irony of Richmond is of course traditionally Democratic groups, such as the building trades, have the same interests as these Republicans and therefore supported the Chevron proposal, and city worker's union, who do not support any of these candidates, are completely ignored.


The president of another West County Democratic Club wrote:


I was really disturbed by the DPCC endorsements for Richmond City Council, but felt I couldn't really challenge the endorsement since I don't live in Richmond and didn't participate in the election committee meetings.


In addition to shock over the endorsement of Bates, local Democrats are upset about his Bates/Obama campaign signs (some are calling it the “Bates and Switch”) all over town that link the two like they are some kind of team. Many Richmond residents have complained to the West County Democratic Headquarters on San Pablo Avenue, but no one there wants to touch it. Below is an email typical of many I have received:

“This afternoon, I've just gotten a call back from the WCC Democratic Campaign office (the one on San Pablo Avenue) where I left a complaint last weekend. She said they can't do anything about it, but complaints should be lodged with the CCC Elections Office in Martinez: (925) 335-7800. She agreed that it was offensive and embarrassing, but that their office can't do anything about it.”









Supervisorial District 1 has five seats on the Democratic Central Committee, but unlike the rest of the county, they haven’t attracted much interest. In the last election, four candidates (Harpreet Sandhu, Cora Ward, Nagaraja Rao and Hilary Crosby) filed without opposition, and a fifth, Rick Alcarez was appointed by the DPCC for the fifth seat.

Somehow, this endorsement appears to have Sandhu’s fingerprints on it, as well as his mentor, Bob Campbell. It is no coincidence that the Chevron Three emerged on top and intact after this questionable endorsement process. Sandhu has a reputation for muscling his way into DPCC decisions and actions using suspicious tactics.


An April 28 article in the Contra Costa Times described charges that Sandhu manipulated the Democratic Convention delegate voting process by bussing in out of district voters:


Greg Pope, the Obama campaign team leader for the district, and others charge that the duo won partly on the strength of some bogus votes from people who were not registered to vote or who live outside the district. "I think it (the election result) should be thrown out," said Anne Gomer, the caucus convener.

Gomer and others said they complained to the state Democratic Party, but an official there said Friday that the party will not intervene.

"Someone had called here about that issue, but we never heard another word about it, so the election stands as is," said Bob Mulholland, political director for the state Democratic Party. "No one ever followed up on any issue."

A sign-in list of 250-plus people who voted in the caucus contains at least eight entries with out-of-district addresses" in Antioch, Concord, Pleasant Hill and Fairfield. A Bay Area News Group sampling of the sign-in list also turned up about 20 names with Contra Costa addresses who are not on the official county voter registration rolls or on a list of about 30 people who registered to vote at the polling site that day. One person signed in giving an address as a Vallejo post office box.

The 7th Congressional District, represented by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, covers a large swath of Contra Costa County from Richmond to Pittsburg and a slice of Solano County.

The sign-in sheets contain the sentence: "I declare under penalty of perjury that YES, I am a registered Democrat in the 7th Congressional District (CD) and I pledge my support to Obama for President."

Sandhu, who shuttled some people to the poll by van, said he and his supporters were diligent about making sure that the people they brought were legally entitled to vote.

"Everybody was told, 'You have to live in the 7th District. You have to be for Obama,'" Sandhu said. "We asked them, 'Is George Miller your congressman?'"

People not found by Bay Area News Group on the county voter registration rolls "must have had a previous history of voting," Sandhu said. "Either they turned in their forms, or they believe that they are registered voters because they voted in the last election."

Gomer and Sandhu gave different accounts of the role Sandhu played at the poll.

"He would tell the sign-in people, 'He's OK' or 'She's OK,'" Gomer said.

But Sandhu said, "I did not vouch for anybody."


If you want to weigh in on this, contact Chuck Carpenter, (925) 435-5428, chuckcarpenter@aol.com and Brian Lawrence (925) 465-6118, btl@btlawrence.com.