Category Archives: Steve Young

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:
    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:
    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:

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.

Valero spends another $5,000 for last minute live calls in effort to buy Benicia Mayor race

Total now over $214,000 to buy Benicia’s 2020 Mayor’s race

On Saturday, October 31, The Valero PAC reported another payment of $5,000 to the Washington, D.C. based company Winning Connections for scripted live phone calls to Benicia residents to get out the vote for Valero’s chosen candidate.

The report, filed according to law with the City of Benicia and posted on the City’s website, shows the $5,000 expenditure and a 3-page script.  The script includes proper pronunciation of “Benicia” for the out-of -state callers, (ben-ee-sh-a).

Benicia  residents have largely been outraged and outspoken about the huge influx of outside money from the massive Texas-based corporation and a local labor union that is considered to be in the pocket of it’s primary employer, Valero.

All local candidates have expressed disapproval of Valero’s attempt to influence our election, including the candidate Valero hopes to buy.

Valero’s primary purpose is to defeat current City Council member and Mayoral candidate Steve Young.  Young has been endorsed by the Benicia Independent and many other local individuals and groups.  See

Benicia campaigns get colorful boost from local artists

Local Campaigns take on Colorful Look

By Vicki Byrum Dennis, November 1, 2020
Campaign signs in Benicia – Steve Young for Mayor, Terry Scott for Council

Local artist Toby Tover is proving that election campaigns don’t have to all look alike. The colorful and creative yard signs supporting Steve Young for Mayor and Terry Scott for City Council that have popped up all over town in recent weeks are the proof.  The idea behind the signs was a simple one: ask local artists to create original campaign posters and signs for candidates who have always supported the arts.

Toby Tover, Benicia

It originated with Tover, and it was something new for this long-time Benicia artist. “I’ve never gotten involved in a local election before this one,” she said. “But I really felt strongly about helping Steve.”

“Steve’s support of local artists has been so strong for so many years,” she said.  “He’s been at all the Arts Benicia events. He and his wife Marty visit our studios and galleries, and buy art from local artists. I felt it was time to step up and give back.”

It helped that Tover also spent more than 30 years in marketing and could visualize how the look of a campaign could be unique, how the branding could stand out. “I’d been thinking how boring signs can be, how repetitious,” she said. “They get lost because they are all basically the same, usually the same color, design, font. There had to be a way to make it different.”

Like with many of her best ideas, Tover found the solution in the middle of the night. “I have insomnia and often use the time to work out some of the problems or challenges with my art,” she said. “That’s when it struck me how the artists in town could help the campaign. How about making unusual and eye-popping signs which could be sold as a fundraiser?”

She texted Young the next day and ran the idea by him. He loved it but had two suggestions.  He thought that the signs potentially could be auctioned off and suggested the sign campaign include Terry Scott who is running for City Council.

As chair of the Benicia Arts and Culture Commission and Public Art Committee since 2017, Scott too has worked closely with the artist community, especially in creating public art projects throughout the city. Young and Scott worked together to help bring artist’s Lisa Reinertson’s iconic statue, “Neptune’s Daughter,” to the Benicia waterfront.

With both candidates on board, the campaign project was a go, but to pull it off, Tover needed help. Young reached out to his friends and supporters Benicia artists, Larnie and Bodil Fox and Jenn Hanley, who agreed immediately. Other friends jumped in, and the team quickly organized a plan.

“When I heard about Toby’s idea from Steve I knew it could make a great project, and I volunteered to coordinate with the artists,” Larnie Fox said. “The project did raise money, but more importantly we created colorful campaign materials that spread a positive message.”

Hanley created and facilitated the two auctions. She also designed the digital graphics for the events, oversaw all the financials and handled much of the promotion. Jack Ruszel of Ruszel Woodworks donated the sign materials.

Ultimately, 35 artists created more than 70 signs including two by the internationally-known Reinertson. The response was so great that the team decided to hold two online auctions, two weeks apart in September. After the auctions, the Foxes distributed the signs and installed many in the yards of lucky winners.

The project raised more than $3,500 for the campaigns. Both Young and Scott are delighted with the results and grateful for the support of the community artists. “This is so different from your typical campaign effort,” Young said. “But it certainly reflects how our campaigns have tried to connect not only to the artist community, but to the larger community who could see and appreciate how unique this effort truly was.”

“I loved this project the first time I heard about it,” Scott said. “Isn’t it great to see political support expressed not in anger and violence in us vs. them tones— but expressed as positive statements with hope and color?  Each sign is an individual message of political support, but it’s also a message of how many of us Benicians view our world with positivity and hope.”

Benicia – PAC influence here worse than in Big Cities

The One Way in Which Our Wonderful Benicia’s Politics Are Worse Than Those of Big Cities

By Stephen Golub, Benicia Resident, October 31, 2020
Stephen Golub, Benicia

When my wife and I moved to Benicia, one major reason we did so is the wonderful sense of community here. Even during these terrible Covid times, this town’s warmth has continued to shine through. And though my fantastic neighbors and I don’t always agree about politics, our chats about them have always been friendly and civil.

It’s against this backdrop that this year’s mayoral campaign, namely the negative attacks on Council Member Steve Young by the Valero-backed PAC, Working Families for a Strong Benicia, has been so appalling. The many lies and distortions have apparently included blasting him for his legitimately receiving a publicly funded pension. What’s next? Denigrating someone for getting social security?

To be clear, before for I go any further: I recognize that Valero and its local workers have legitimate interests and that it donates to Benicia’s well-being in many much-appreciated ways. But while individuals who work for Valero here may arrange such contributions with the best of intentions, the corporation’s Texas headquarters is not funding them out of the goodness of its heart. Rather, it’s to influence perceptions of the company and thus increase its influence on our city.

If Valero were simply out to help, think of how many meals for hungry families impacted by the Covid economy or services for school kids could have been purchased with the nearly $400,000 that Valero and its allies put into tainting our politics in 2018 and 2020.

Furthermore, I respect Vice Mayor Christina Strawbridge’s devotion to Benicia. But I’m nonetheless disappointed that her disavowal of the Valero PAC’s attacks on Mr. Young have been so weak and late, largely confined to a couple of recent online candidate forums, and that she has sought to equate its massive spending with negative but much less impactful social media insults against her.

I also give her kudos for responding quickly and thoughtfully when I emailed her campaign about the PAC’s attacks on Steve Young. But meek disavowals by her do not make for a convincing rejection of its attacks on Mr. Young. And in view of the PAC’s strenuous support for her, they do nothing to reassure us about how she will deal with Valero if she wins.

All this brings me to how the PAC’s actions have been even worse than what I’ve seen in some big cities – namely, what I witnessed years ago working in New York City politics and government and later living in Manila (in the Philippines) and, most recently, Oakland.

Here’s how: I’ve never seen so much money spent to try to sway the votes of so few people, particularly through the lies and distortions about Mr. Young that the PAC has circulated in support of Ms. Strawbridge. Between 2018 and 2020, Valero’s and its allies’ attacks on candidates it opposes have worked out to about $25 per voter here, based on the roughly 15,000 citizens who cast ballots in our elections.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Politics in those much bigger cities can get dirtier than here. But purely in terms of per person expenditure, my admittedly imperfect memory can’t recall such great levels of funding pouring into a campaign.

My concerns go beyond what’s being spent, however, to what’s being bought or at least influenced if Christina Strawbridge is elected. PACs exist to advance specific interests. This is particularly concerning in Benicia, which has seen very recent disputes, especially crude-by-rail, over Valero’s operations. Steve Young has been much stronger on such matters.

What’s more, our state is being ravaged by climate change-facilitated fires. Benicia itself is threatened by them – recall the Vallejo fire last year and the toxic skies in recent months. Other refineries are converting to biofuel processing. California’s and potentially federal policies (pending the presidential election results) are shifting away from petroleum. In light of all this, Valero should be exploring with Benicia a gradual transition that protects its interests and especially those of its workers, not adding fuel to the fire of this great town’s politics.

I’ll note that the one issue that I’ve discussed (online) with Mr. Young involved my challenging his proposal earlier this year for indirect city support for Covid-impacted Benicia businesses – an idea about which, in retrospect, he might have been right. He was civil, polite and thoughtful in his reply.

In contrast, Ms. Strawbridge could have done much better in backing away from Valero’s backing. So can we, come Election Day, by voting for Steve Young.