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Associated Press Coverage of Richmond Election

The following is from yesterday’s Associated Press wire regarding the Richmond election. One thing many people are asking me is why the Contra Costa Democratic Party is backing Bates, Marquez and Sandhu. Here is a short explanation:


The Contra Costa Democratic Party Central Committee, who made the endorsement of Bates, Marquez and Sandhu, is made up mostly of Central and East County members. They really don’t know what is going on in Richmond, and they were influenced primarily by Harpreet Sandhu and Bob Campbell, who have been mainstays in the rather small West Contra Costa County contingent of the Democratic Party apparatus for years. There is so little interest in the West County contingent that the three elected representatives typically go unchallenged.


Here is how Bob Campbell explained the process:


“Since I wasn’t there I can only make an educated guess.  In the case of Harpreet Sandhu, it is easy to see why they endorsed him. One, he has been a member of the Central Committee since 2004. Two, he has been active in Democrat Party Politics since 1985 or1986 when I appointed him as one of my five appointees to the eleventh Assembly District Committee. Three, he has attended most of the state and national conventions that have taken place for over the last 23 years  In fact this year he received almost three times as many votes as most of those running to be delegates for the Obama Delegation in Denver Colo.”


“The same is true for John Marquez.  He too was one of my appointees to the 11th AD and he has participated in many state and national conventions. In the case of Nat Bates, he was a member of a Democratic club for over thirty years, serving as president of the Richmond Southside Democrat Club and the Richmond Democrat Club. These same three candidates have walked countless precincts, written checks to candidates for state and national office plus, they have done all of the things for their party that have been asked.”


The point is that endorsement by the Central Committee has nothing to do with how well an incumbent candidate has performed as a city Council member, whether or not he or she has represented his or her constituents well, or how what position he or she has taken on critical local issues. It’s all about attending conventions and “doing what their party asked.”


My best guess is that all of the remaining City Council candidates are registered Democrats, and it still galls me that a small group of out of town apparatchiks have given the Chevron Three an official stamp of approval, essentially saying that those three are better Democrats and better candidates than the others.

At the end of the day, if you take away the Democratic Central Committee endorsement, Bates, Marquez and Sandhu are primarily supported by Chevron surrogates, and their campaigns are largely financed by Chevron.




Voters in Contra Costa County will be deciding on 17 local City Council and mayoral races in Tuesday's election, including voters in Richmond who have witnessed what has at times become an ugly campaign season in the city.

Four incumbents, Tom Butt, Harpreet Sandhu, Nathanial Bates and John Marquez, and five newcomers are running for three open seats on the Richmond City Council.


The newcomers include Jeff Ritterman, chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond; Jovanka Beckles, an educator and business owner; Cortland "Corky" Booze, a teacher and businessman; Rock Brown, a supervisor at Cosco; and Navdeep Garcha, a residential developer.


A 10th candidate, Chris Tallerico, dropped out of the race Oct. 22, saying that members of the Richmond Green Party, the Richmond Progressive Alliance and members of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin's staff had "vilified" him and accused him of being a racist and a fascist.


A representative from McLaughlin's office and the two groups denied the accusations.


The Contra Costa County Democratic Party and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce have endorsed Bates, Marquez and Sandhu while McLaughlin, the Contra Costa Times, the East Bay Express and the Sierra Club have endorsed Butt, Beckles and Ritterman.


While most of the candidates' priorities are identical, putting crime prevention, job creation and economic development at the top of the list, a large part of the race has centered on how candidates voted in July on Chevron's Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project and on Measure T.


Butt voted against Chevron's project and Ritterman spoke out against it, urging the City Council to impose caps on the quality of crude the refinery would be allowed to process.


Beckles didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment, but her campaign Web site states that she is a member of McLaughlin's Environmental Health and Environmental Justice Task Force and has worked with the Sierra Club, the North Richmond Open Space Shoreline Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment and the West County Toxics Coalition to help reduce pollution in Richmond.


McLaughlin also voted against approving the project.


Butt has said he believes it is time for the city to stand up to the oil company.

He said he voted against the project because it would allow the refinery to process dirtier crude oil and continue to pollute Richmond.


Although refinery officials repeatedly said they were not planning to process dirtier crude oil, they refused to agree to caps on the type of crude they would be permitted to process, Butt said.


The day the council approved the project, accompanied by a $61.6 million "community benefits package" negotiated behind closed doors, The Richmond Alliance for Environmental Justice, a group of more than a dozen environmental justice organizations and community groups spearheaded by Communities for a Better Environment, issued a statement calling the council's approval of the project "a massive affront to Richmond residents and the Bay Area community."


Communities for a Better Environment has since filed a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit against the city.

Sandhu, Bates and Marquez were among the five council members who voted to approve the project.


On their campaign Web sites, Sandhu and Bates both attempted to "set the record straight" about why they voted to approve the project.


Sandhu argued that the agreement the city made with Chevron will bring in 1,200 new construction jobs and $61.6 million in additional revenue to the city. The project, an upgrade to several of the refinery's processing units, will also result in reduced pollution, according to Sandhu.


He also said that under state law if a project meets all of the regional, state and federal requirements, as the Chevron upgrade did, the council has to approve it.


Bates said the refinery, one of the largest and oldest refineries on the West Coast, poses a significant safety threat to the community and needs to be upgraded.


"If they leave that plant like it is, it could blow up any minute and we'd all be affected," Bates said.


He also noted that the federal, state and regional agencies involved in regulating the plant had given the project the green light.

"I firmly believe Chevron has the right to replace decade-old equipment that has been polluting our city," Marquez said.

He said he met with California Attorney General Jerry Brown shortly before making his final decision to approve the project. According to Marquez, Brown said he was satisfied with the plans for the upgrade.


"I have slept well since I voted for it," Marquez said.


As for Measure T, which would change the way the city calculates its business license tax for manufacturers, Butt and Ritterman both support it.


Bates and Marquez have both said they are neutral on the issue and Beckles and Sandhu didn't immediately return phone calls seeking their positions.


Ritterman said he helped gather signatures to get Measure T on the ballot. If it passes and he is elected, he said he would use the money to train Richmond residents for green collar jobs. He also said he would like to make Richmond the first city in the nation to have solar panels on all its schools.


The measure proposes to tax manufacturing businesses, namely Chevron, .25 percent of the value of the material used in the manufacturing process.


The current business license fee in Richmond charges companies based on the number of people they employ.

If it passes, the measure is expected to bring the city more than $26 million in increased taxes from manufacturing companies. About $16 million of that would come from Chevron.


Opponents of the bill argue the tax would bankrupt small, locally owned manufacturers and drive other manufacturing businesses out of Richmond.


The Richmond Chamber of Commerce has called it an "anti-business and anti-jobs tax."


Proponents of the measure argue Chevron, which had $18.7 billion in profits in 2007 and reportedly makes more than $16 million every seven hours, can afford to pay its "fair share."


Other races throughout the county are taking place in Antioch and Brentwood, where the mayor's position and two council seats are up for grabs.


Candidates are also vying for two City Council seats open in Concord, Martinez, Orinda and Pinole and for three City Council seats open in Clayton, Danville, El Cerrito, Hercules, Lafayette, Moraga, Oakley, Pleasant Hill, San Pablo and Walnut Creek.


Pittsburg City Councilman Ben Johnson and Pittsburg Mayor Will Casey were the only candidates for the city's two open seats, so the race in their city was canceled, according to election officials.


© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. In the interest of timeliness, this story is fed directly from the Associated Press newswire and may contain occasional typographical errors.