E-Mail Forum
  McLaughlin Comes Out Swinging
October 5, 2010

Following is a sample of the feedback from my E-FORUM coverage of the attempt to use Gayle’s personal history before she came to Richmond against her. There were two press conferences today, one at 2:00 PM put on by the Richmond Police Officers Association and the Richmond Firefighters, and the second put on by Mayor McLaughlin and her supporters.

  • Good for you, Tom. I would attend but I will still be working. This sort of smearing tactic is sickening. You are right when you say that Nat has nothing else to run on....certainly not his accomplishments. I see that he has lumped John Z in this mess. I hope John will stand up and distance himself from this sort of sludge. I would never, never, never vote for any candidate that uses this type of tactic. And as a lifelong union person, I am appalled at the participation of the Fire and Police unions in this type of campaigning. It only demeans them.


  • To Nat Bates: I am disappointed in your lower than low campaign strategy. To me, this shows that Gayle McLaughlin, in the face of tremendous adversity, overcame her situation. You should have admiration for her, not loathing and criticism. She can help the city overcome its' adversity, as she has her own. This is shameful on your part, and most likely will hurt you, not help you, and is a mark against your own character.

This is absolutely disgusting!  I hope it backfires on them.  I believe the people of Richmond have more intelligence and compassion than to judge a person on their past problems.  After I'm done with this email, I'm sending a donation to Mayor McLaughlin's campaign.

  • You made me cry. Thank you.


  • What a sickening story.  When I looked at the press release, I wasn’t surprised to see Mary Jo Rossi listed as RPOA’s political consultant.  We were up against her two years ago on an environmental issue here, and we found that there was no depth she’s unwilling to sink to and no lie she’s unwilling to tell to win.  It’s consultants like her, and the people who hire them, who have made politics as stomach-turning as it is today. Thank you for standing up for Gayle.
  • Thank you, Tom---this makes me respect you...and Gayle...even more!


  • what disgusting filth and how normal, natural and acceptable such filth is in political campaigns... the people using this kind of material should be ashamed, but given our political system they will probably wind up senators, governors and maybe presidents... only slightly sarcastic...check out the dreadful ads for campaigns much higher in money and position than this one... shameful...we are all disgraced by this kind of garbage... wish i could vote for her twice... i could, if this were chicago...

The first press conference was pretty much a bust. After rolling out the now infamous bankruptcy court document, the RPOA and firefighter attack dogs had to answer questions from the press. “What exactly has the mayor done that has so upset you?” asked one reporter. “Uh, she doesn’t come to our Christmas party,” was the response.

In these times when Richmond police and firefighters are the beneficiaries of unusually good management in an otherwise dismal economy for cities, that’s the best they could come up with. The real reason is a marriage made in hell that goes back to the days of Darrell Reese where RPOA and firefighters are locked in to the whole Chevron/Point Molate Casino cabal with a touch of nostalgia for the early 1990s when they actually controlled the City Council. Nat Bates and John Ziesenhenne were part of that, but Z was turned out of office in 1993.

The 5:30 PM press conference by Mayor McLaughlin was much better attended by the media. It was a little disorganized, but McLaughlin answered the only two questions the media asked. She confirmed that she was still paying off her student loans and that she had not been a recipient of any disability payments for years. That seemed to satisfy the media who were working on a 6:00 PM deadline, as they folded their antennas and left.

Following is a digest of media and other coverage, starting with statements from the RPA:

 Personal Attack on Gayle
"In politics, anything and everything goes"
                                                            Nat Bates
This is Nat Bates' explanation for circulating to the press personal financial and medical information about Gayle McLaughlin from years before she served on the city council.  See Gayle's response below.
Nat is clearly following in the tradition of his supporters who like to drop surprises on the voters during the last weeks of an election.  In 2008 Nat's supporters, the RPOA  (the Richmond Police Officers Association) issued  the infamous racist flyer (blaming Latinos for the drugs and violence in Richmond)  in an attempt to defeat Jeff Ritterman and Jovanka Beckles.  The community mobilized and the flyers were widely denounced.  According to reporters, the RPOA is involved in spreading Gayle's personal information. 
This year the RPOA  (which does not represent the political views of most police who try to do a good for the city) has put up over-sized banners making it appear that there is a rift between police/fire personnel and the Mayor. In fact there is no such rift. The Mayor is very supportive of the work of the police department in reducing crime through community policing.
But, Nat Bates should not be taking all the blame.  We do not know who paid for the investigation of Gayle's personal life, but we have good reason to believe that the Ziesenhenne campaign was involved in some way. Former Mayor Irma Anderson, a Z supporter gave it away at the Homefront Festival when she taunted Gayle supporters with items from Gayle's personal information.  It is clear that Z supporters were spreading the information before it became public. 
In any event this kind of politics is bad for Richmond and for the country and should be soundly repudiated.  We want a country where people can surmount adversity, where redemption is encouraged, and where people who lead get judged for their leadership.

Mike Parker 


That someone could rebound after such a difficult time and perform as the best mayor ever in Richmond's history is testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.  I applaud you Ms. McLaughlin!  It is better to soar high above the darkest depths than to sludge through the mediocrity of those who want to drag one down to the lowly gutters that they are incapable of seeing beyond.  ---Eduardo Martinez

A Letter from Mayor McLaughlin

RGayle McLaughlinichmond, October 05, 2010

Dear Richmond residents,


Many of you recently received material disclosing personal information about my medical and financial history regarding adversities I experienced years ago before entering public office.
Some years in my earlier life were extremely challenging.  I was the victim of multiple crimes and experienced a host of personal losses, including debilitating illnesses and deaths within my family.  My health and personal finances suffered as a result.  But that is all in the past.  I overcame those challenges.  I believe my past challenges have strengthened me and made me a wiser and more compassionate woman, leader, and public servant.
It is not the adversity that one faces, but how one emerges from that adversity and overcomes one's challenges that defines a person.
Those who oppose our program for positive change in Richmond have decided to attack me personally, in an attempt to distract voters from the important issues and decisions we face.
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.
But I know, with great certainty, that Richmond voters will support candidates on the basis of their values, ideas, and vision.  I know that you will look at my record in office over the last six years and judge me on the merits of my consistent hard work and achievements.  I stand on my record as Mayor of Richmond.
For anyone in Richmond who has ever struggled with adversity, I stand with you and for you.  A Better Richmond is possible, and we can build it together.

Gayle McLaughlin
Mayor of Richmond

NAT Neglects Truth
Bates Cartoon 
Nat Bates insists on rewriting history to make his case against Mayor McLaughlin.  In speeches and in the article in the Richmond Post Bates says, "Target was brought in and supplied 300 jobs but she voted against it because it wasn't green enough."    
The problem for Nat Bates is that when he makes things like this up they can be easily checked.
The fact is that the City approved the Target project in early 2004  (Contra Costa Times Feb 13, 2004) before Gayle began to serve on the City Council.  We searched all the minutes of Council meetings from the time Gayle started on the Council through 2008 and can find only two votes on the Target project-- a unanimous vote on storm drain and bike path in December 2007. and a unanimous vote to accept Target's $300,000 contribution for the Police in December 2008.
Nat also likes to claim that the Mayor refused a contribution to the city from Target.  As the above vote indicates this is not true either. Gale does not accept personal or campaign contributions from corporations.  She does want them to pay their fair share to the city. Because the check was intended for police support, Gayle arranged for Chief Magnus to accept it.

Richmond Confidential: McLaughlin under fire

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin addressed press and supporters after court documents about her past were released by political opponents. (photo by Julia Landau)
By: David Ferry | October 5, 2010 – 8:17 pm
Gayle McLaughlin fought back today against accusations that she is unfit to serve as mayor, after political opponents produced documents revealing a 2001 bankruptcy and referring to “serious psychological disabilities.”
The documents originate from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. They show that McLaughlin had more than $100,000 in student loan debt at the time, and note that she had received Social Security disability payments for a “serious psychological” condition for about nine years. In a press conference this evening, the mayor confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but said not all the information contained in them is still accurate.  When pressed to explain, she said she is no longer on disability, but would not elaborate further.
McLaughlin confirmed that she defaulted on her debt in 2001 and said she is still working to pay off the student loans—which now total about $125,000. The mayor would not comment on her mental health, but an aide said she had suffered from depression and has since overcome it.
McLaughlin stood with a host of supporters, including city council candidate Corky Boozé, right, and Rev. Phil Lawson. (photo by Julia Landau)
“Some years in my earlier life were extremely challenging,” the mayor said, reading from a statement. “I was the victim of multiple crimes and have experienced a host of personal losses, including debilitating illnesses and deaths within my family. My health and personal finances suffered as well.”
The documents’ release marks the rollout of a coordinated campaign against McLaughlin. Today, the Richmond Police Officers Assocation and International Association of Firefighters Local 188 launched the website www.therealmayorgayle.com and will air attack ads starting Wednesday. The unions are funding the campaign through a political action committee called Richmond First. In response, McLaughlin lashed out at what she called “dirty campaigning.”
“Those who oppose our program for positive change in Richmond have decided to attack me personally, in an attempt to distract voters from the important issues and decisions we face,” McLaughlin said.
The full records from McLaughlin’s bankruptcy filing paint the picture of a depressed and indebted woman, struggling to find work in Vallejo. The documents indicate that as recently as 2003 McLaughlin was $119,353 in debt; that her net worth was approximately $5000; and that she was behind on rent at the Twin Bridges Mobile Home Park in Vallejo, which she listed as her home address. The documents also state that she had been unable to maintain employment for much of her adult life.
Firefighter and police union representatives made their case against Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
Richmond Firefighters and Police Association Presidents Jim Russey, center, and Andre Hill, left, suddenly announced a press conference three hours before the mayor had scheduled hers. "The mayor has never been there for police and fire on many of the issues we care about," said Hill.
In a press conference a few hours before the mayor spoke, members of the police and firefighters unions said they were simply making information public to inform the voters. They argue that the mayor has ignored firefighters in Richmond, and that the department has been understaffed.
Richmond Firefighters Association president Jim Russey said his organization hired a private investigator to look into the mayor’s background. He said it cost approximately $15,000, and that they had known about the bankruptcy for about ten days.
“You don’t go from being jobless because of psychiatric issues to becoming the mayor of one of the largest cities in California and in the nation,” Russey said in a statement. “If the voters had known the truth about the mayor from the beginning, they would have never elected her.”
Mayoral candidate Nat Bates emailed the bankruptcy document to the media on Monday, calling the revelations “a good example of candidates coming into a city relatively unknown and swaying voters who do not know them.”
In an interview Monday, Bates said he was not trying to capitalize on the mayor’s nine-year old bankruptcy filing, and insisted that he was not “basing (his) campaign success on the basis of someone else’s apparent misfortune.”
“I have no intention of dropping myself to the level of talking about her misfortunes,” he said.
Councilmember Tom Butt spoke on behalf of the mayor, saying the move was a return to dirty politics.
City councilman Tom Butt spoke on behalf of the mayor, saying the move was a return to dirty politics. "This is probably the most low-life attack, character assassination that I've seen on any candidate or sitting member since I've been here," he said.
Councilmember Tom Butt, a staunch ally of the mayor, called the information in the document, “old news,” and said it has no relevance to McLaughlin’s performance as a councilmember or mayor.
“I think it’s kind of unfair,” Butt said. “Here’s a person who clearly was facing some substantial personal adversities that involved her health and her financial situation . . . and she rose past all that and emerged a strong and capable person and that’s the person that people have seen serving them for the last six years.”
Butt said he had known about the mayor’s past for some time, and added that it was “tacky” for Bates to release this information.
“It’s my perception that none of the situations that were described in [the document] are current,” Butt said. “All of that’s past history. Gayle has long since been off the disability statuses she was on. She’s healthy and sound and has performed well over the last six years.”

Unions launch attack on Richmond major

Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin walks out of the front ga...
(10-05) 18:32 PDT RICHMOND -- Leaders of the Richmond police and firefighter unions launched a pre-election attack on the city's mayor Tuesday, releasing documents that showed she had defaulted on college loans and had suffered from "serious psychiatric disabilities" that left her unable to hold steady work before she was an elected official.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, whose 2006 election made Richmond the largest city in the United States to elect a Green Party member as its mayor, is running for re-election Nov. 2 against two candidates. McLaughlin, 59, said the revelations about her past were a mean-spirited attempt to undermine her chances.
"I overcame those challenges," she said. "I believe my past challenges have strengthened me and made me a wise and more compassionate woman, leader and public servant."
Jim Russey, president of Richmond Firefighters Local 188, said at a news conference that the unions were launching a media campaign against McLaughlin because she had failed to address concerns from public safety officers during her first term, including the proposed hiring of three new firefighters that would "bring the city back up to safe levels."
The city has 78 firefighters, about half the number it employed in 1973 when Russey was a rookie firefighter.
Russey said his union had paid a research consultant $15,000 to investigate McLaughlin after union members complained they didn't know much about the mayor's past.
The consultant turned up a 2003 court document stemming from a bankruptcy filing that showed McLaughlin had $100,000 in unpaid college loans that she took out from 1993 to 1998.
McLaughlin filed for relief from the debt, arguing she'd suffered from mental health problems since her mid-20s that made it too difficult to work and earn a salary to repay the loans. She received Social Security disability payments for at least 10 years and was hospitalized on two occasions, according to her court filing.
The 2003 court documents said McLaughlin was taking Nardil, which treats depression and anxiety disorders; Neurontin, an anticonvulsant and pain reliever; and Ambien, which treats sleep disorders.
At a late afternoon news conference outside City Hall, attended by dozens of supporters, McLaughlin said she had overcome her problems and was repaying the loans.
"Some years in my earlier life were extremely challenging," McLaughlin said. "I was the victim of multiple crimes and experienced a host of personal losses, including debilitating illness and deaths within my family. My health and personal finances suffered as a result."
Sgt. Andre Hill, president of the Richmond Police Officers Association, said McLaughlin should have disclosed her debts and mental health issues to voters six years ago when she first ran for City Council.
"If you can't pay your debts, it shows you're irresponsible," Hill said. "We think she should be transparent with the voters of Richmond."
Hill said McLaughlin hadn't built a rapport with rank-and-file police officers, and that her vote against a new benefits package for officers earlier this year was a sign she did not support the department.
A handful of McLaughlin supporters showed up at the news conference outside City Hall to jeer the union leaders, and more surrounded the mayor at her later session with reporters.
Andres Soto, a member of the city's Planning Commission, said the unions were working as "attack dogs" for another candidate.
"They're so desperate to beat her, they'll stoop to this," Soto said. "They're the hit men for the age-old corruption in this city."
City Councilman Tom Butt said at McLaughlin's news conference, "In my 15 years on the City Council, this kind of attack is the lowest of the low."
E-mail Justin Berton at jberton@sfchronicle.com.


Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin criticized for bankruptcy filing

By Katherine Tam and Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 10/05/2010 05:23:04 PM PDT
Updated: 10/05/2010 10:36:30 PM PDT

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin filed for bankruptcy shortly before she was elected to the City Council and sought to avoid paying $119,000 in credit card bills and student loans, arguing in court documents that she suffered serious psychiatric disabilities and could not hold a full-time job.
The Richmond police and firefighters' unions, who oppose the 58-year-old mayor's re-election bid, unveiled a mailer, 30-second television ad and website Tuesday that contained these potentially damaging personal details.
The unions, among other labor groups, have vowed to oust the one-term mayor, largely due to her opposition to the proposed Indian casino at Point Molate and her criticism of the Chevron refinery retrofit project.
McLaughlin, who was elected to the council in 2004 and as mayor in 2006, has two challengers Nov. 2: Councilman Nat Bates and former Councilman John Ziesenhenne.
"There are things the mayor hid from voters when she first ran for office," said Richmond Police Officers Association President Sgt. Andre Hill. "Richmond police and firefighters believe voters ought to know the truth about their leaders."
McLaughlin adamantly rejects critics' assertion that her mental and financial history makes her unqualified to serve as mayor of Contra Costa County's second-largest city. She said she suffered from depression, but has overcome it with therapy.
public office and trying to paint it as having something to do with me now," McLaughlin said. "After six years, hardworking years, I challenge anyone to say I haven't put myself, my heart, my mind, soul and body into the work, day in, day out, with the commitment and with the love of serving the people of Richmond."
McLaughlin also disputes the unions' characterization of her work history. She says she held numerous full-time jobs in her adult life, including four-year stints as a data-entry operator at Time Inc. and as a clerical worker with the American Osteopathic Association.
She describes her struggles with depression as a personal challenge, one she attributes to her experiences as the victim of several crimes while she was in her 20s, along with the illnesses and deaths of close family members.
She declined to elaborate on the crimes and illnesses, and said she didn't bring it up during her past campaigns because she views it as her private medical history.
"I had depression because of traumatic situations in my life," McLaughlin said. "I had short periods when I received disability aid and I had long periods of working. But I rose from my problems. I sought out the help that was needed. I overcame my challenges."
McLaughlin plans to respond with mailers and a letter to voters. She held a news conference Tuesday afternoon in front of City Hall, flanked by more than 40 supporters and the head of the city employees union SEIU Local 1021 who called the attack political mudslinging.
Many people have suffered from some illness, the Rev. Phil Lawson said. And the mayor should be judged by her character and accomplishments rather than by past legal actions, added Yvonne Nair, president of the nonprofit Saffron Strand for the homeless.
"We are here to say this is not right," Lawson said.
At a news conference of their own Tuesday, the police and firefighters' unions said they have had trouble working with McLaughlin and said she has not been supportive of issues they care about, a statement the mayor disputes.
The unions declined to say who they are endorsing, but campaign materials for Bates indicate he is endorsed by both unions.
The mayor blistered the unions' use of her personal financial and mental struggles in the campaign, calling it a repetition of dirty Richmond politics.
In the 2008 council election, the police union issued a four-page mailer that attributed the city's crime to drugs and stated, "Drugs come to Richmond from across the Mexican border." It added that city leaders who oppose driver's-license checkpoints hold public safety hostage.
It urged voters to reject candidates Jovanka Beckles and Jeff Ritterman, and to vote for Bates and Chris Tallerico. Critics blasted the mailer, saying it incorrectly and unfairly blames the immigrant population for Richmond's troubles.
McLaughlin filed for federal bankruptcy in 2001, according to court documents. She listed $19,210 in assets, including a 1960 Paramount mobile home and a 1995 Geo Prism sedan.
Her debts totaled $119,353 but the biggest piece -- $100,000 -- was student loans, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. In 2003, McLaughlin again sought relief in U.S. Bankruptcy Court from the student loans but her appeal was dismissed without prejudice.
The mayor, who earns $46,500 a year plus benefits from Richmond, said she is still paying off the student loans with interest.
The loans, in part, financed her undergraduate degree and some graduate studies. McLaughin earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology in 1996 from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. She later pursued a master's degree at DePaul University and Rhode Island State College but did not finish.
During the 1990s, McLaughlin said she suffered some of her most severe bouts with depression.
She was collecting an $891 monthly Social Security permanent disability payment at the time she filed for bankruptcy but said she has not received the benefit since she has been in office.
She was hospitalized on two occasions in 1999 and continued to undergo treatment including therapy, according to court documents. She also took medications associated with depression, sleep-aid, and seizures or neuropathic pain.
She told the court in 2003 that she has "been unable to maintain employment for any extended period of time." She listed in her court petition a few part-time jobs ranging from a few weeks to a few months from the late 1990s to 2001.
But McLaughlin was elected to the City Council the following year and as mayor two years later. The salary is relatively small but the city offers what many would consider good benefits.
Watch a television ad and view a mailer targeting Gayle McLaughlin at IBABuzz.com/politics.