E-Mail Forum
  Richmond Mayor's Race Looks Like a Trifecta
July 14, 2010

It looks like another horserace for mayor of Richmond with at least two current and former councilmembers challenging the incumbent mayor. In 2006, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin squeaked to victory by 242 votes (37.73%) in a three-way contest that included Gary Bell and former Mayor Irma Anderson. In 2001, Irma Anderson was elected with 36.5% of the vote in a four-way race that included Nat Bates, John Marquez and me (I was second with 24%).

There will be some clear cut issues in this race. The Point Molate casino will likely be on the November ballot, and Ziesenhenne and Bates will support a casino while McLaughlin will continue to oppose it. Polls have shown that Richmond is split about 50-50 on the casino. Does that mean Bates and Ziesenhenne will split 50% of the voters with 25% each and Gayle will grab the other 50%?

Both Bates and Ziesenhenne are unabashed supporters of anything Chevron wants to do, while Mclaughlin has stood her ground and insisted on Chevron sharing the wealth and operating cleanly and safely. She cites her tough stance as laying the foundation for the $114 million tax settlement she supported that Richmond recently negotiated with Chevron. She is in Sacramento today trying to negotiate with state leaders, Chevron and Plaintiffs a settlement in the Chevron Energy Project litigation so construction workers can go back to work.

The mayor has also been criticized for promoting green business in Richmond , something Ziesenhenne and Bates somehow consider as anti-business. Jobs will be a big issue this campaign season. While there is really not much the Richmond City Council can do in the short run to alleviate Richmond’s soaring unemployment rate, Ziesenhenne and Bates will cite the mayor’s stance on Chevron and Point Molate as a jobs killer. The mayor will counter with statistics that show green jobs are leading the California economy. Richmond just won first place among large California cities for New Solar Installations in watts per capita.

You never really know who is in the race until the filing period closes. Bates will be under a lot of pressure from both Chevron and the Chamber of Commerce to drop out rather than splitting votes with Ziesenhenne because they largely count on support from the same constituency. Bates’ stubbornness, however, will probably prevail.

As for me, I have already endorsed McLaughlin. Richmond is in better shape than either Bates or Ziesenhenne will admit. We are one of the few California cities not hit with massive layoffs, including police, and we have a balanced budget. Our stubborn homicide rate is almost half of last year. If you happened to be at the July 3 symphony and fireworks event at the Craneway, you saw a diverse Richmond at its ebullient best, showing off its waterfront, its history and its optimism to impressed visitors from all over. I’m not sure Richmond is ready to put these successes at risk and change direction with a different mayor.

Former councilman files for Richmond mayor seat

By Katherine Tam
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 07/13/2010 12:03:33 PM PDT
Updated: 07/13/2010 02:01:33 PM PDT
Businessman and former city Councilman John Ziesenhenne is running in November's election to be Richmond's next mayor.
Ziesenhenne, who served on the council for 12 years from 1981 to 1993, was the first candidate to file nomination papers at City Hall on Monday when the filing period opened.
He is expected to run against Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who has not filed papers but has declared that she will run for re-election. Ziesenhenne, 53, is a board member of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, which has sparred with McLaughlin over multiple issues including taxes, how to make Richmond business-friendly and Chevron's contentious proposal to replace old equipment at its refinery.
Councilman Nat Bates also has pulled papers for the mayor's seat.
Ziesenhenne owns M.A. Hays Insurance Company in Richmond. In his candidate's statement, he said the city needs a plan for new revenue that will generate jobs for residents. The city also needs to reduce crime and improve educational opportunities, he said.
"We need a mayor who will work with all parties and factions to bring together the best ideas for a respected Richmond," he said.
A Richmond native, Ziesenhenne was 24 when he was elected to the City Council in 1981. He was a supporter of business development during his three terms. He ran unsuccessfully for a fourth term in 1993, coming in fifth in a competition over three open seats and garnering 14.8 percent of the vote.
The filing period for council hopefuls closes Aug. 6. The mayoral seat and the three council seats held by Ludmyrna Lopez, Jim Rogers and Maria Viramontes are up for grabs.