The overwhelming response from the community when Valero’s campaign contributions and deceptive practices are exposed is one of outrage.
By Jan Cox Golovich, November 1, 2022
I would like to express my appreciation to the many community people who have worked diligently to expose the corruption of our local city council elections with Valero’s efforts to buy council seats for Strawbridge and Largaespada during the last three election cycles (2018,2020,2022) Specifically, I would like to thank Lawrence Dutch with his Letters to the Editor, Andres Soto via his radio show on KPFA, leaders of the newly formed group Benicians for Clean Elections and Roger Straw, Editor and Publisher of the Benicia Independent.
Valero has poured massive amounts of money to secure these seats for their hand-picked candidates Strawbridge and Largaespada. In 2018 and 2020, they spent $445,000 buying ads, bombarding us with endless phone calls and smearing good, honest candidates. As far as I can tell in my research, this is an unprecedented amount for a small town of 28,000 people. Presently, Valero has a war chest of over $225,000 for the 2022 election. They have sent out deceptive mailers and conducted phone banks promoting their candidates disguised as a neutral “poll” These last minute maneuvers are difficult to counter, as they hide many of their expenditures until AFTER the election.
The overwhelming response from the community when Valero’s campaign contributions and deceptive practices are exposed is one of outrage. We cannot tolerate or accept this as the status quo in our town. The community displayed its intolerance in 2020 when Strawbridge was trounced in her bid for the Mayor’s seat, despite the massive financial backing of Valero. Yet, Valero has persisted in building its campaign coffers and coming up with even dirtier tactics.
Sadly, our elected officials have displayed an astonishing disconnect from its outraged electorate and rather than criticize Valero for corrupting our elections, they have turned on the very community people who have exposed it. The two beneficiaries of Valero’s campaign funds feign ignorance as to why Valero would support them with these massive amounts of money and complain that those exposing these “facts” are engaging in “negative campaigning”. Another elected official writes a letter to the editor calling the attacks on Valero “over-the-top”, ignoring the fact that the money Valero pours into our elections to buy council seats is much more egregious. Yet another councilmember writes a tone-deaf letter to the editor saying that Strawbridge and Largaespada would make good council members and calls for their detractors to “stop talking trash.” Strawbridge and Largaespada may make great council members for Valero, but their ability to do good for the community is completely compromised by Valero’s sponsorship.
I have lived in this town close to forty years and have always been proud of the strong voice of the community that comes together and stands up for what is right. Whether it’s preserving open space, cleaning up toxic waste, blocking petroleum coke domes on the waterfront or fighting against exploding Bakken oil trains, this community has ALWAYS won the fight; we have done this despite opposition from City Hall and powerful monied interests. I have no doubt that we will go back to having clean and honest elections one day very soon. Thanks to all that are making this happen.
Former Benicia City Councilmember