Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
[BenIndy Editor: I believe that no current Benicia City Council candidate was involved in nor favors push polls. But the reason for Valero to smear one candidate and lift another is clear. Valero can’t be unaware that Mr. Largaespada stood firm with Valero and against the will of the people during the controversial Crude by Rail debate in 2014-16. Planning Commissioner Kari Birdseye voted with the unanimous decision to stop Valero “in its tracks.” Valero has every reason – and every right – to openly and fairly voice its preference. But to secretly fund dirty tricks to achieve its goal is a tactic that should be soundly criticized by all candidates. I’ll vote for Birdseye, and hope that our next Council will include 3 women for the first time ever. – RS]
Campbell sought tougher response to push poll incidentBy John Glidden, October 8, 2018 at 5:51 pm
BENICIA — Days after the Benicia City Council met in closed session directing City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin to seek answers about a controversial polling incident, speculation swirled on which councilor voted against the move.
Councilman Tom Campbell confirmed he was the lone “no” vote in the Oct. 2 closed session decision.
“I wanted a stronger response than the rest of the council members wanted,” Campbell explained in an email to the Times-Herald.
The City Council authorized Mc Laughlin to contact Research America and EMC Research about their respective roles in a series of phone calls made to residents in September. Research America conducted the polling, which included questions about the city’s current council candidates.
The polling firm said EMC hired them, and just last week, Mc Laughlin confirmed that the Valero Benicia Refinery sponsored the entire polling.
Vice Mayor Steve Young, and other residents, have stated they received one of the survey calls which allegedly smeared council candidate Kari Birdseye while championing fellow council candidate Lionel Largaespada. Young called the survey a “push poll,” a type of survey meant to influence voters instead of gathering objective survey information from those called.
Councilors expressed concern that since the survey calls didn’t provide a “paid for by” disclaimer at the end of the phone calls the survey may have violated the city’s municipal code. A claim the polling firms have denied through their lawyer.
Campbell, who led the charge for the present campaigning ordinance in the municipal code, said he wanted immediate action in response to the poll.
“What I wanted was that the council authorize the city attorney to immediately go to Superior Court, file an injunction/lawsuit against the pollster and subpoena the records from EMC on who paid for it, how much, and what the exact questions were,” Campbell wrote in the same email. “The council took a little softer line than I wanted. I felt we had to act now to obtain the information as quickly as possible before the Nov. election.”
Largaespada issued a statement on Sunday in response to the news that Valero paid for the polling.
“I was very disappointed to learn that Valero sponsored the recent polling in Benicia,” he wrote in an email to this newspaper. “As I previously stated, I was not involved in any way with this polling effort, and I did not know who was conducting it.
“As I also stated, push polling, or any misrepresentation of a candidate’s stance or ideals is not something that I support in any way,” he added. “I hope that Valero will provide the content of the poll so that this issue can be resolved.”
Largaespada, who has expressed support in the past for the “crude by rail” initiative, also defended himself from comments made online by residents.
“To the commenters on Nextdoor that have suggested that I am in favor of this type of tactic, or that I am a ‘tool’ or ‘mouthpiece’ for Valero — these comments are completely false and without merit,” he wrote. “I understand that issues involving Valero are polarizing in our community, but to say that because someone believes differently than you do about an issue makes them a ‘tool’ for an entity is nothing more than name-calling.”
Mc Laughlin was also tasked by the council to obtaining a copy of the poll questions. In a letter she sent Research America, and EMC, last Friday, she gave them 72 hours to send a copy of the questions to her office.
Mc Laughlin said she didn’t have a copy of the poll questions as of Monday afternoon and was told she would get a response to her request on Wednesday.