Category Archives: Local elections

We will never back down from Benicia’s Big Oil bullies

By Roger Straw, March 4, 2020

Here in Benicia, Big Oil is already setting aside funds to stack our City Council in November.  See Valero PAC report shows $248,111 on hand to influence Benicia’s 2020 election.

As a followup to yesterday’s post, “Wave of oil money hits local Calif. climate candidates” – I am passing on a rather happy email from the California League of Conservation Voters (below).

Please consider supporting the CLCV.

We took on Big Oil and Won!

 

The results of the California Primary speak loud and clear: Californians chose the environment over Big Oil.

Even though Big Oil spent millions of dollars this primary, California voters rejected their best efforts and 95% of CLCV-endorsed candidates are moving on to the General Election in November!

Click here to join our movement, and support our work in the General Election >>>

Through our endorsements, our Environmental Scorecard, and joining forces with key partners in spending strategically in priority races, CLCV is on the front-lines, making sure environmental champions are heading to the November General Election.

Heading into the general election, Big Oil will amplify their efforts to stop our progress. We have a tough fight ahead of us in the fall, but we never back down from bullies – even if it means we are outspent by millions of dollars. Can you chip in today to make sure we can be just as effective come November?

In Solidarity,

Mary Creasman
CEO
California League of Conservation Voters

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    Solano County election results – Monica Brown wins District 2 Supervisor race

    By Roger Straw, March 4, 2020

    Benicia precinct results not yet available

    Monica Brown receives just over 51% of votes – wins re-election outright with no runoff in November

    For detailed voting results on our local elections, the best and official source is our Solano County Registrar of Voters website.  See especially the March 3 Primary Election Results page.

    An example from that page – Monica Brown currently has 51.04% of the vote for Solano County Supervisor District 2.  This percentage will hold, given that there are only 997 outstanding ballots to be processed as of today.  Monica wins with no runoff in November.

    Choice Vote by Mail Election Day Voting Total
    MONICA BROWN 5,653 50.08% 3,145 52.86% 8,798 51.04%
    ROCHELLE SHERLOCK 3,108 27.53% 1,276 21.45% 4,384 25.43%
    K. PATRICE WILLIAMS 2,527 22.39% 1,529 25.70% 4,056 23.53%
    Cast Votes: 11,288 100.00% 5,950 100.00% 17,238 100.00%

    Check back on the March 3 Primary Election Results page for updates each day as outstanding ballots are added to the totals.  Unless it is a close race, these updates are usually inconsequential.

    For regular updates on the number of ballots still outstanding, see 2020 03 – Presidential Primary Election.

    Eventually, the Registrar of Voters will post individual Precinct Results.  A link to those results should be posted on the  Historic Election Results and Files page if not on the March 3 results page.

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      Wave of oil money hits local Calif. climate candidates

      By Adam Aton, E&E News reporter Climatewire: Monday, March 2, 2020
      Oil pump jacks are seen next to a strawberry field in Oxnard, Calif. Photo credit: Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS/Newscom
      Oil pump jacks are seen next to a strawberry field in Oxnard, Calif., where climate change is a top issue in a race for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/Newscom

      OXNARD, Calif. — The oil industry has turned an epicenter of climate change into one of its first 2020 battlegrounds.

      And the election it’s targeting isn’t for president, Congress or even the California Statehouse. It’s more local than that.

      Ventura County, California’s fastest-warming county and one of its top oil producers, is voting tomorrow for three of the five seats on its county Board of Supervisors.

      With the power to deny oil permits, a majority on the board would give climate hawks a powerful weapon to use against one of the region’s heavyweight players. Greens have notched some wins recently — but now the industry is fighting back.

      One oil company, California Resources Corp., a spinoff from Occidental Petroleum Corp., already has spent more than $800,000 — more than the opposing candidates have raised combined.

      That has reshaped an election where 50-cent mailers are normally big-ticket items. This year, the oil-aligned candidates even have had ads air on cable news.

      “They’ve spent so much money. I mean, we’re a little town. I see my face on CNN and MSNBC talking about what a corrupt politician I am,” said Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramírez, who’s running for the county board with environmentalist backing.

      The contest is an early test, too, for the forces already shaping the Democratic presidential primary, as well as races for Congress and the reelection campaign of President Trump. On one side are activists trying to mobilize voters with environmental issues. On the other side is money.

      The outcome could be a harbinger for elections across the nation where energy and environment issues play big. California alone has several House seats where Democrats in 2018 leveraged climate and clean energy promises to knock off once-dominant Republicans.

      Ventura Supervisor Kelly Long won in 2016 with the help of about $175,000 from the oil industry, flipping the seat Republican. She has more than double that oil money this time, as does Jess Herrera, a longshoreman and port commissioner who is also getting a six-figure oil money boost for his county board campaign.

      Greens are using the big spending to try to galvanize their own voters and volunteers. It’s a tactic that could have more power in a political environment shaped by Trump. Unlike the 2016 race, activists say climate and campaign finance have mixed into a potent message this time around.

      The election has turned into a referendum on Big Oil, said RL Miller, founder of Climate Hawks Vote and a candidate for the Democratic National Committee.

      “It was hard [last time] to get a lot of Democrats to really care, other than on purely tribal, partisan [grounds],” said Miller, who lives in Ventura County.

      “Now, the Dem messaging is really explicitly about a Big Oil, dark money super [political action committee]: Don’t let outside oil money buy this election.”

      Ramírez’s campaign has countered the oil effort with ads on Spanish radio, press conferences with Democratic leaders and handwritten postcards to voters. The campaign has sent about 6,000 in the last month, said her campaign manager, Robert O’Riley.

      He added that Ramírez’s supporters were animated by the other side’s spending.

      “It really backfired at them,” he said. “That’s a real, true grassroots effort that we have. … You dump a million dollars, and we gather in homes and buildings and write postcards to people.”

      A California Resources spokesperson said the oil company is trying to defend jobs in the 20 fields it operates in the county.

      “Recent policies of the County Board of Supervisors have hampered the ability of businesses in several industries, including ours, to invest locally and resulted in losses of good-paying jobs and local tax revenues,” the company’s communications director Rich Venn said in a statement.

      “We support committees and candidates who understand the importance of sensible regulations that foster reliable and affordable in-state energy production and its economic, environmental and social value to our communities,” Venn added.

      One oil and gas worker said the industry has operated in the area for a century without major problems — an assertion that others dispute. He added that all people in the industry care about the environment because they have to drink the water and breathe the air, too.

      “I’m not going to harm myself for a paycheck,” said the worker, who only gave his name as Adam V. to protect himself from retaliation.

      Oil industry decline

      A homeless camp in Oxnard, Calif. Photo credit: Adam Aton/E&E News
      A homeless camp in Oxnard is situated between a power plant and a Superfund site. Adam Aton/E&E News

      Ventura County’s oil sector has been in decline for decades. In 2016 the county produced 7.7 million barrels of oil, a fraction of the 46 million it produced in 1958. Some wells operate under decades-old permits.

      That industrial legacy is still visible in the offshore oil pads looming over Oxnard’s beaches and the pumpjacks churning among strawberry fields.

      The U.S. Geological Survey last year reported contaminants like methane in the groundwater around Oxnard’s oil fields. The county board has set a moratorium on new wells around potable water sources pending further study. Supervisors also are considering a new setback requirement for oil projects, which could significantly restrict the areas where companies could drill.

      Kim Marra Stephenson, the candidate challenging Long, says Ventura County needs to prepare for a decline in the oil industry similar to the downturn of coal.

      She cited reporting by the Los Angeles Times and Center for Public Integrity that found that California Resources has 7,600 idle wells, with the average idle well producing nothing for 14 years. The company’s share price has tumbled, and the report estimated it faces $1 billion in cleanup costs on top of $5 billion in other debt maturing by 2022.

      “They’re trying to hang on by a thread here in Ventura County. When they go bankrupt, I’m very, very concerned about who’s going to foot that [cleanup] bill and what’s going to happen to our workers,” Stephenson said.

      “I’m not saying ban everything right now, but we’ve got to make this transition because it could be falling on us even if we don’t choose it.”

      Ventura is also the fastest-warming county in the lower 48 states, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. Its temperatures have risen by an average of 2.6 degrees Celsius. Worldwide averages are closer to 1 C of warming.

      The rise in extreme heat hits hard in this heavily Latino area, where many people work on farms. The county also has seen a run of destructive wildfires, including the 2017-2018 Thomas Fire, one of the largest in state history.

      That has made climate change a bread-and-butter issue for voters here, who might miss work if conditions are too smoky to work in the fields, said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy.

      Mobilizing those Latino voters is a long-term project, he said. Organizers have to contend with people who move often, fear intimidation or have felt ignored by the government.

      Zucker contrasted that approach to the tactics of California Resources, whose advertisements have attacked trips that Ramírez took to foreign countries — rather than boosting its own image as an oil company.

      “For them, it’s kind of a slash-and-burn model,” he said. “They’re not even trying to build long-term support for industry. It’s really just about attack, attack, attack. … Whatever it takes to win the election, then we’ll figure everything else out later.”

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        Majority of Bay Area officials are white and male despite diversity

        One third of cities in the region have all-white city councils

        Sabina Zafar, candidate for San Ramon City Council
        Vallejo Times-Herald, by Leonardo Castaneda, Bay Area News Group

        The Bay Area is one of the most diverse regions in the country, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at the region’s elected officials, according to a new study.

        City council members, mayors, county supervisors and district attorneys in the nine-county Bay Area are mostly white and male, far beyond their share of the population, according to a newly released report on diversity in public office. About 40 percent of the region’s population is white, but 71 percent of elected officials are white. One-third of cities in the region have all-white city councils.

        “Our elected officials largely do not reflect the diversity of the communities that they are serving,” said Sarah Treuhaft, a managing director at the Bay Area Equity Atlas, a project of the San Francisco Foundation, PolicyLink and USC.

        Treuhaft is optimistic, noting that the percentage of elected officials of color has increased from 26 percent before the 2018 elections to 29 percent. The share of women also increased to 44 percent, up from 40 percent.

        Regionally, Latinos make up 24 percent of the population but 10 percent of elected officials, the report found. Cities like Concord and South San Francisco are about a third Latino but don’t have any Latino elected officials.

        Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up 26 percent of the population and 10 percent of elected officials. In Hercules, in Contra Costa County, nearly half the population is Asian American and Pacific Islander. The mayor is the only Asian American elected official.

        Treuhaft said she was particularly surprised to see the lack of diversity in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, both of which have long been majority-minority counties.

        Black residents are the only racial group that has proportionate representation, making up 6 percent of the population and 6 percent of elected officials.

        Having people of color in elected office, Treuhaft said, is a measure of a group’s power and an important step in addressing issues like structural and institutional racism that affect those residents.

        “Representation is not everything, but it matters,” she said.

        Keith Carson, a long-time black Alameda County supervisor whose district includes West Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont, said residents struggling with issues like lack of access to education, healthcare or employment are more likely to turn to elected officials of color.

        “(They say,) ‘We would like for you to be a champion on this,’ because they — probably rightfully so — believe there’s more identifying with their challenges,” he said.

        Change is occurring in some communities. Before the 2018 elections, San Ramon — which is 46 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander and 43 percent white — had an all-white, all-male city council. That’s when Sabina Zafar, now the city’s vice mayor, was elected.

        “Not having that representation was one of the things that bothered me,” Zafar said, noting that the council hadn’t had a female member in seven years. “Somebody has to step up and show the face of the community.”

        Zafar said she was spurred to run by a reason many council members may find familiar — the sudden appearance in her neighborhood of a Walgreens in a location she thought could have been better used for smaller stores, maybe a coffee shop, that would work as a community meeting place.

        For her, politics is something of a family legacy. In Pakistan, her father was a city council member and eventually a member of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s cabinet. Meeting Pakistan’s famed female leader was inspirational, Zafar said. But any thoughts of entering politics faded into the background until she volunteered for the upstart campaign of U.S Rep. Eric Swalwell, a one-term Dublin council member who in 2012 defeated long-time incumbent Pete Stark.

        “He kind of reminded me a lot of my father,” she said.

        She applied to Emerge California, a program that trains women to run for office and whose alumnae include Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and San Jose council member Magdalena Carrasco.

        That training, she said, helped her deal with comments like people telling her it wasn’t her turn to run for office.

        “I get to decide when it’s my turn and when I’m ready,” she said.

        After an unsuccessful attempt in 2016, Zafar was elected two years later. Following a lawsuit, the city recently switched to district elections.

        District elections have been credited with helping increase diversity in other cities, including Fremont, which expanded its council from five to seven seats. The city now has four Asian American and Pacific Islander representatives, double the number before district elections. In Santa Clara, the city’s only current non-white council member — Raj Chahal — was elected after a switch to district elections. Next week, Measure C, put on the ballot by the council, will ask voters to decrease the city’s districts from six to three, each with two council members — a change Chahal opposes.

        Meanwhile, Zahal said she’s been working to make her city more inclusive. She said that aside from some disagreements on issues like district elections, her fellow council members have been welcoming and aware of the need for broader representation on the council.

        “When I took the oath, the room was very different. It was the first time a lot of people had come out to the city hall,” she said. “I think people noticed. Certainly the other council members noticed.”

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