Category Archives: Christina Strawbridge

KQED: Candidate Targeted by Valero Wins Benicia Mayoral Race

[Significant quote: “The fact that Young withstood the Valero PAC’s campaign is hugely significant, according to Matto Mildenberger, an assistant professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, who focuses on oil politics.  ‘It means that Benicia voters are willing to take their climate future into their own hands and are going to resist efforts by oil companies to control local politics.'”] [See also KQED’s Oct 28 report on Valero PAC spending.]

Benicia Election Update with candidate quotes

KQED Election Updates, By Ted Goldberg, November 4, 2020

Benicia Councilman Steve Young, a candidate attacked by a political action committee funded mainly by the Valero Energy company, will be the city’s new mayor.

The Working Families for a Strong Benicia PAC raised more than $250,000 to defeat Young and support Councilwoman Christina Strawbridge. The committee said Young would put blue collar jobs, like those at Valero’s Benicia refinery, at risk.

But city’s voters were not swayed.

With Young leading the race with close to 52% of the vote, Strawbridge, who garnered about 31%, conceded the election Wednesday morning.

“I believe the voters reacted strongly against the negative ads and mailers that the Valero-funded PAC tried to use against me,” Young said.

“Hopefully, Valero will learn the obvious lesson from this result: Interference in Benicia elections will be rejected in the future as well,” Young said.


Strawbridge called Young’s election a “decisive victory.”

“Congratulations to him,” Strawbridge said, adding that the two lawmakers exchanged text messages Wednesday morning. “Even though it was a tough election, we have and will work together for Benicia.”

Since 2019, Valero has donated $240,000 to the political action committee targeting Young. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 549 donated some $50,000 as well.

The same PAC spent thousands to help Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada win seats on the Benicia City Council, and to defeat Kari Birdseye, a former chair of the city’s Planning Commission that denied Valero’s crude-by-rail expansion project.

Young will take over from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, a critic of Valero who has served in Benicia city government for two decades.

Patterson had become increasingly outspoken about efforts to place more regulations on the Valero plant, scene of the two worst refinery accidents in the Bay Area in the last three years.

The fact that Young withstood the Valero PAC’s campaign is hugely significant, according to Matto Mildenberger, an assistant professor of political science at UC Santa Barbara, who focuses on oil politics.

“It means that Benicia voters are willing to take their climate future into their own hands and are going to resist efforts by oil companies to control local politics,” Mildenberger said.

Benicia election results – a few candidate quotes…

[Editor: You may want to skip the last half of this report.  The reporter gives nearly half of her report to the Cannabis measure D outcome, including extensive quotes from the losing parties and none from those supporting the majority YES on measure D.  – R.S.]

ELECTION 2020: Steve Young wins Benicia mayor race, cannabis measure passes

Cannabis measure passes

Vallejo Times-Herald, By Katy St. Clair, November 4, 2020

BENICIA — Steve Young has been elected mayor of Benicia and a ballot measure he supported, Measure D, was also approved, possibly opening the door for more than one cannabis dispensary in town.

Councilmember Tom Campbell was also re-elected for another term and Terry Scott was also elected to the council as results are now final from Tuesday’s Election Night.

Young defeated fellow Councilmember Christina Strawbridge, with 54.59 percent of the vote. Strawbridge garnered 31.02 percent of the vote and third candidate, Jason Diavatis, received 14.38 percent of the vote.

Young has been on the Benicia City Council for four years and served on the planning commission before that.

“I feel enthused” Young said about his win. “I feel ready to get to work. I think it was a big win for the community and a repudiation of negative campaigning. It should send a message to Valero and others that Benicia voters aren’t going to be swayed by this type of campaigning.”

The mayoral race was at times contentious, helped along by texts, robo-calls, mailers and TV ads paid for by Valero in support of Strawbridge. The oil company pumped more than $250,000 into the race, despite Strawbridge’s stated displeasure with their help.

“Congratulations to Steve Young,” said Strawbridge. “He won decisively.”

Young backed Measure D and made it one of his campaign issues and Strawbridge opposed it.

“It was close,” she said. The measure won with just over half of the votes. Measure D allows the City of Benicia to add more cannabis dispensaries, though the measure is what is called an ‘advisory vote,’ meaning it merely takes the pulse of the electorate. It will not affect local law.”

Benicia resident Bart Bright, who opposed Measure D, agrees that the vote was close and says that shows that the town is divided on the issue.

“The main thing is, we haven’t even opened the first one. Why don’t we just wait?” he said.

Bright also questions the public safety risks involved with having dispensaries, citing a shooting of two dispensary security guards in Oakland on Tuesday.

Strawbridge foresees “a big fight” over adding more dispensaries but she praises the young people that created signs around town opposing the measure, saying that those kids “are our future.”

Benicia election results – details and analysis

By Roger Straw, November 5, 2020
Outstanding votes

The Solano County Registrar of Voters have completed the count of Election Day ballots, and added those results to previously received mail-in ballots.  The result is still unofficial.  As of 9am on Thurs. Nov. 5, The County reports an estimate of 18,000-25,000 additional County-wide vote-by-mail ballots to be received and processed, and 4,000-6,000 additional provisional ballots to be processed.  Benicia’s share of those 22,000-31,000 ballots has not been reported and remains unknown.  However, Benicia’s population is 7% of Solano population, and our voter turnout percentage of 71% is slightly higher than countywide 68% – so we might count for 8% of the 22,000-31,000, or 1,760-2,800 votes.  The County will update its results at close of business and I will report here on any significant changes in outcome.

Benicia races for Mayor and City Council – winners and losers…
Details and analysis…
  • 14,528 Benicia ballots were received, 71% of 20,393 registered voters.  Wow!
  • MAYOR results as of Thurs. Nov 5, 9am:
    CANDIDATE NAME TOTAL VOTES PERCENTAGE
    7,266 51.93%
    4,287 30.64%
    2,409 17.22%
  • Steve Young won vote-by-mail by a huge margin with 55% to Christina Strawbridge’s 31% and Jason Diavatis’ 15%.
  • Jason Diavatis (surprise!) won election-day voting with 36% (then Young at 34% and Strawbridge at 30%).  Close!
  • There were relatively few election-day votes, 1,746, compared to a whopping 12,216 vote-by-mail ballots.  Thus Steve Young’s incredible overall margin of 21 points.
  • CITY COUNCIL results as of Thurs. Nov. 5, 9am:
    CANDIDATE NAME TOTAL VOTES PERCENTAGE
    7,245 36.56%
    6,269 31.63%
    6,177 31.17%
  • Tom Campbell won re-election to City Council with the highest vote total among candidates and a margin of just under 1,000 votes.  By tradition, as top vote-getter, Campbell will be named Benicia’s Vice Mayor, replacing Christina Strawbridge in that role.
  • Terry Scott won the second seat on City Council by 135 votes in election-day voting, but lost to Trevor Macenski by 43 votes in vote-by-mail.  Scott’s narrow final (unofficial) margin of 92 votes is subject to counting of more mail-in ballots and provisional ballots.  Keep your fingers crossed!
Cannabis results:

CANDIDATE NAME TOTAL VOTES PERCENTAGE
7,175 51.44%
6,772 48.56%

Those voting YES won in vote-by-mail ballots by a margin of 526 votes.  Those voting NO won in election-day voting by a margin of 123 votes.  Again, mail-in voting far outnumbered election-day voters.  Voters cast 12,182 mail-in ballots and only 1,765 election-day ballots.  I expect that the final (unofficial) margin of 403 votes, or 2.88% is likely to hold as the County counts additional mail-in ballots and provisional ballots.

KQED: Texas refinery candidates win in Benicia City Council race

Repost from KQED News

Valero-Backed Candidates Win Benicia City Council Election

By Ted Goldberg, November 7, 2018
The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Two candidates backed by Texas-based Valero Energy Corp. won seats on the Benicia City Council in Tuesday’s election, while another candidate attacked by the large oil company lost.

Valero — which operates a refinery that’s one of Benicia’s largest employers — along with five state and local labor groups donated more than $165,000 to a political action committee that backed Christina Strawbridge and Lionel Largaespada and opposed Kari Birdseye, an environmentalist.

That amount is more than three times as much as what the candidates raised combined.

By Wednesday morning, Strawbridge got more than 33 percent of the vote, Largaespada garnered close to 30 percent and Birdseye received 26 percent, according to the Solano County Registrar of Voters. Those numbers don’t yet include all mail-in and provisional ballots.

Birdseye has conceded the election, but she expressed displeasure with the PAC’s actions.

“We ran a smart, clean campaign and played by the rules. These election results will only embolden special interests to throw in money to local races to buy candidates to do their dirty work,” Birdseye said in an emailed statement.

The Valero PAC’s ads called Birdseye “a yes man” for Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, and “another job killer” that was “bad for Benicia.”

Its work deepened a divide at City Hall and the rest of Benicia over the city’s relationship with its refinery neighbor, 18 months after the facility experienced a full power outage that led to a major release of pollution.

The Valero PAC’s work led to a failed attempt by Benicia city officials to get the state’s political watchdog to investigate some of Valero’s communication with voters weeks before the vote.

And it reminded critics of an effort by Chevron to sway voters in Richmond in 2014 when the company spent millions on an attempt to elect a slate of its allies to the City Council.

Strawbridge, who was previously on the council, emphasized that she did not support what she called the committee’s “smear campaign,” and said it’s time for the city to come together and improve its dealings with Valero.

“It’s been a tough election,” Strawbridge said in an interview Wednesday. “I ran on my own credentials, my own experience and I feel like that resonated with the residents.”

A Valero spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month the company wrote a letter to the editor at the Vallejo Times-Herald, emphasizing the refinery’s strong safety record and criticizing Mayor Patterson.

Union officials have said that Patterson’s criticism of Valero puts the city’s economic health at risk. And, since Birdseye was her ally and a spokeswoman for the National Resources Defense Council, she became the target of the PAC.

“Last night the voters of Benicia made it clear the path they want our city to take,” said Don Zampa, president of the District Council of Ironworkers, in an emailed statement. Zampa’s group is one of the those that donated to the PAC.

“Benicia is home to a blue-collar workforce. We’ve been here for generations and we are not going anywhere,” Zampa said.

Patterson, for her part, has said Valero tried to bully and buy its way into politics in Benicia. [Editor: see Mayor Patterson’s email comment to KQED.]

Largaespada did not respond to a request for comment.