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  Desperate Mayoral Challengers Get Personal
October 5, 2010

Lacking a compelling campaign issue and trailing in the polls, mayoral challenger Nat Bates closed his eyes and heaved off a dirt bomb for the end zone. In a matter that is a bit of old news to many, Nat Bates dredged up and circulated via email yesterday a decade-old public record of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy action involving Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who at the time was having trouble paying off a $100,000 student loan debt.

The bankruptcy was discharged in 2001, but the document circulated by Bates was what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to include the student loan debt in the bankruptcy action. As background for the difficulties involved in paying off the student loan, the document describes medical challenges going back nearly four decades to McLaughlin’s 20s and 30s, which she ultimately overcame and obtained a bachelor degree in psychology.

Bates’ email justified the distribution as follows:

This information landed in my email this morning. To what extent it is accurate is unknown although the information appear to be a legal document. Also, to what extent it will affect the November Mayoral election is questionable. If this information is true,  it is a good example of candidates coming into a city relatively unknown and swaying  voters who do not know them. To John Z and myself credit, both of us having lived in Richmond most if not all of our life, you will find our lives have been an open book because anything and everything about us is known in the community. It is most unfortunate such a situation has occurred but in politics, anything and everything goes.
Following Bates’ lead, the Richmond Police Officer’s Association picked up the ball and ran with it, announcing a 2:00 PM press conference today clearly designed to initiate a massive character assassination campaign against Mayor McLaughlin. The press release is signed by the “Richmond First Committee,” made up of both the RPOA and the Association of Firefighters Local 188. Both of these organizations have long ties with Darrell Reese, Nat Bates and Chevron and have been obsessed for years with winning total control of the City Council for their own purposes.

Click here for a copy of the entire bankruptcy court document. Click here for the RPOA press release.

Gayle McLaughlin has been too modest to discuss it in much detail, but her life story is one of overcoming substantial adversity, including being a multiple victim of crimes, personal losses, debilitating illnesses and deaths of close family members. Through it all never lost her vision of a better America, completed her education, emerged from health and financial challenges and successfully served as a City Council member and mayor.

She is no longer on any disability status and is paying off her decades old student loans. She became a stronger and better person in the process, her strengthening making her a wiser and more compassionate woman, leader and public servant. Even bankruptcy is something shared with many in the recent past, including such American icons as General Motors, Chrysler, Washington Mutual, PG& E and Lehman Brothers. Some, like Gayle, emerged to survive’ others did not.

It is not the adversity that one faces, but how one emerges from that adversity and overcomes one's challenges that define a person. 

The word on the street is that Gayle’s opponents will make this slice of her history the centerpiece of a media campaign to unseat her. This kind of campaigning – attacking with personal information – has damaged our political process across the nation, and has contributed to the cynicism and powerlessness with which too many people regard government. Good people are discouraged from becoming active in public life.

I feel, however, that that Richmond voters will continue to support candidates on the basis of their values, ideas, and vision.  They will look at Gayle’s record in office over the last six years and judge her on the merits of her consistent hard work and achievements, not by a challenging time in her personal life that she overcame.
I will be standing with Gayle at a press conference at 5:30 PM today at City Hall in which she will address and respond to the attacks.