[Editorial disclaimer: the following letter appeared on several social media sites and was printed in the Benicia Herald on October 11. It is questionable whether it is fair to characterize a candidate by reference to their spouse, but in this case, the complex political connections are relatively clear, and should be aired if not swallowed whole. – R.S.]
By John Ryan, Benicia, Visual Storyteller
October 6, 2020
Recently, allegations and questions arose regarding the conduct of Christina’s husband, Scott Strawbridge, and attempts made to persuade Mr. Jason Diavatis to drop out of his mayoral campaign in an effort to help secure a win for his wife, Christina Strawbridge. Their response to these allegations were vague, misleading & lacking in critical detail.
Who is Scott Strawbridge and why does it matter?
When asked about Benicia’s controversial history with Valero spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to buy seats on our city council, most of us would likely jump to the 2018 election and their successful campaign to elect Lionel Largaespada & Christina Strawbridge using push polls and negative attack ads.
Most of us understood why Valero would choose to support Lionel given his support of Crude by Rail and his conservative politics.
However, in 2018, many were confused by their inclusion of Ms. Strawbridge, who claimed to have no idea why Valero’s PAC endorsed her. It was a clever strategy that played well with the newer generation of Benicians living here less than ten years. Those of us who have followed local politics longer than a decade knew better. Why? Because Valero and their affiliated labor unions have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to put a Strawbridge on the council. And they started in 2007 with Scott Strawbridge; not Christina. For those of us who remember his campaign, the 2018 election felt like déjà vu.
In 2007, Scott Strawbridge (a retired top labor union negotiator for over 30 years) drew criticism for collecting $64,400 in campaign contributions, 95% of which came from out-of-area labor unions. In fact, Scott only collected $5,400 from local donors which included a $2,500 loan he made to himself. It did not include an additional $83K spent by PAC’s funded by Valero, Seeno & their labor unions.
In spite of spending over 5x the amount of money per vote than his opponent, Tom Campbell, Scott lost the election.
Four years later (with a less aggressive approach due to newly established election ordinances limiting contribution and spending limits), Christina succeeded where her husband failed, and won a city council seat in 2011. When asked about the activity of a PAC conducting push polls in her favor during her campaign, she denied having any knowledge of it. Ironically, it was her own husband’s controversial 2007 campaign that led to the City’s reformative action in local election laws still enforced today that now limit both of Christina Strawbridge’s opponents (Jason Diavatis and Steve Young) to a total campaign cap of $32,000 [correction: $34,200] while she reaps the benefits of a $300,000 Valero funded PAC account through the thin veil of plausible deniability.
This isn’t a new strategy. Scott and Christina have been fighting their way to this year’s mayoral seat for over 13 years. It’s no coincidence that Valero, Seeno, and affiliated outside labor unions have backed a Strawbridge in their combined five runs for elected office by investing over half a million dollars. For Christina to maintain that she still has no idea why is nothing short of an insult to the intelligence of Benicia voters.
Mr. Macenski, please take note. While these words are my own, the extensive research and investigative work behind them, are not. The citations for my sources can be found at the list of links below; because plagiarism is inexcusable and unethical.
Thank you to Mr. Roger Straw (of The Benicia Independent) and Ms. Norma Fox for your diligence and hard work featured via the below links.