Page One

Thurmond Leads Fundraising In Race for Assembly 14 Seat

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary race to succeed Loni Hancock as District 14 Assemblymember are relying upon distinctly different fund-raising strategies, with a Richmond City councilmember dividing his contributions almost evenly between individual and business or labor group donors and Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Berkeley physician Phil Polakoff taking 98 percent of their donations from individuals, but with the majority of Worthington’s donations coming from inside District 14 and the majority of Polakoff’s coming from outside. 

Richmond City Councilmem-ber Tony Thurmond was the top fund-raiser in the District 14 race in 2007 with $84,215, several of them businesses with relationships with the City of Richmond. Polakoff was second in fund-raising at $58,150 and Worthington third at $56,375. Polakoff also loaned his campaign another $31,000. 

Thurmond said by telephone that his fund-raising lead came only because he has been raising money since the beginning of 2007, and he expected the other candidates to surpass him in contributions before the election. 

Polakoff began the year with $75,570 in the bank to spend on the campaign, Thurmond had $58,470, and Worthington had $48,625. 

Two of Worthington’s largest contributors were Berkeley Daily Planet owners Michael O’Malley ($3,600) and Becky O’Malley ($4,200 in two separate donations). Individual donors may give up to $3,600 for the June Democratic primary for the Assembly District 14 race, and another $3,600 for the November general election, so long as they are donated in separate checks. 

Filings for the fourth candidate in the race, former Berkeley City Councilmember Nancy Skinner, do not appear on the Secretary of State’s website list of 2007 contributions because Skinner says she did not receive any donations for the District 14 race in 2007 and did not organize her campaign finance committee until the first of this year. 

While District 14 is widely considered a “Berkeley seat”—the last three assemblymembers, Loni Hancock, Dion Aroner, and Tom Bates were all from Berkeley—the Richmond and Berkeley populations of the district are almost evenly divided, with 23.43 percent of the population coming from Richmond (99,216) and 24.27 percent from Berkeley (102,743). Other cities included in District 14 are Albany, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Lafayette, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, and San Pablo. A portion of Oakland (7.5 percent, 30,103) is included in the district. 

Meanwhile, with a midnight Monday deadline for reported contributions to go on the next Secretary of State’s report, all four candidates were scrambling last week to pump up their donations. 

Calling the Monday filing deadline “Green Day” for both St. Patrick’s Day and finances, Skinner sent an e-mail to supporters last week saying, “Many will be watching this report to determine who can win this race. Now is the time to help the campaign send a strong message. … I am trying to raise $20,000 before Monday.”  

On Saturday she sent out a follow-up e-mail saying her campaign had reached 75 percent of that goal. 

Thurmond was also sending out fundraising e-mails last week, saying on Monday morning that the Secretary of State’s next finance reports “will drive the decisions of many groups and leaders whether to support our campaign.” 

Voting in the Democratic primary for the District 14 race will take place on Tuesday, June 3. With no Republicans or other party candidates filing (Democrats hold a 59 to 18 percent edge over Republicans in registered voters in the district), the winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly take office following the November general election. 

Thurmond raised $29,745 in donations in 2007 from business interests. 

Several of those businesses have contracts or had bid on contracts with the City of Richmond or have development interests which must go through the city’s planning process, including approval by the City Council. Thurmond was appointed to the Richmond City Council in 2005 and elected to a full, two-year term in November 2006. 

The donation for Thurmond from the most controversial source is $3,000 from Upstream Point Molate LLC of Emeryville, the company that holds a multi-million dollar option on property on the Richmond shoreline on which it wants to build a Native American-based casino and convention center complex. The project, which has been the subject of several lawsuits, is currently being held up pending Bureau of Indian Affairs approval of the status of the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians. Upstream officials have said that if the casino and convention center complex is not possible, they want to build condominiums on the site. 

Thurmond also received another $3,600 in an individual contribution from Upstream founder James Levine. 

The original Upstream development agreement with Richmond came before the City Council before Thurmond was on the council, but he said that he has since voted on “two or three” smaller issues concerning the development. 

Other Thurmond business contributors who have relationships with the City of Richmond are Veolia Water North America Operating Services of Houston ($3,000 donation), which has a $70 million contract to manage Richmond’s city-owned collection and stormwater systems (voted on in 2004, before Thurmond was appointed to the City Council); Richmond Sanitary Service ($2,395 donation), which holds the contract to recycle and collect solid waste for the City of Richmond (also voted on before Thurmond’s tenure); and W.R. Forde Associates construction company of Richmond and United Heritage Industries construction and development firm of Richmond ($3,600 donations apiece), both of which have bid on City of Richmond contracts. 

Thurmond also received a $3,600 individual contribution from Bay Cities Paving and Grading Company of Concord, which bids on City of Richmond contracts. Last January, Bay Cities won a $2,822,868.60 from the City of Richmond for the Nevin Park Improvement Project, with City Council voting 6-2 on the contract, Thurmond voting in favor. 

Thurmond said by telephone that he didn’t believe it was a concern that companies with interests before the Richmond City Council are coming to him with donations. 

“I let them know that their contribution has no bearing on my vote,” he said. “I tell them if it hinges on an expectation that I will vote favorably on their project or contract, then they should just keep the money.” 

Thurmond noted that while Chevron Corporation, Richmond’s major corporation, has not contributed to his assembly campaign, the company did give money to his 2006 City Council campaign, and “each time something concerning Chevron has come before the Council since then, I voted against their interest.” 

Thurmond has also collected $9,850 in labor organization donations, the only District 14 candidate to so far tap into that source. The total includes $2,500 from the Richmond Police Officers Political Action Committee and $2,500 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302. 

As would be expected for the only candidate from Richmond, close to 50 percent of Thurmond’s individual donations from within District 14 ($8,925) come from that city. Close to a quarter of his individual contributions from within District 14 ($4,350) come from Berkeley. 

Polakoff, a Berkeley resident, is raising money heavily in his home town, with 63 percent ($14,150) of his individual contributions within District 14 coming from Berkeley. Fully a third of that total ($4,700) come from Berkeley physicians. But Polakoff’s single largest financial mine is San Francisco, from where fully 29 percent ($16,750) of his entire individual contributions have been received. Another $6,700 come from Oakland contributors. But because no contributor addresses are given, and only a portion of Oakland is in District 14, it is impossible to determine how many of these contributions come from inside the district or outside. None of Polakoff’s individual contributions comes from Richmond residents. 

Worthington is depending even more heavily on Berkeley than Polakoff. About 83 percent ($40,700) of the Berkeley City Councilmember’s contributions within the district come from Berkeley. Only 4 percent ($1,750) of Worthington’s individual contributions from within the district come from Richmond. 

Including Levine of Upstream, Thurmond had 10 individual contributions of $1,000 or more. They are: Remax Executive realtor Sheila Proctor of El Sobrante ($1,000), Bay Cities Paving & Grading President Ben Rodriquez of Concord ($3,600), California Assemblymember Alberto Torrico of Fremont ($1,000), retiree Clarence J. Thurmond of Palmdale, California ($1,050), developer J.R. Orton of Piedmont ($1,000), retiree Margaret McLaughlin of Melrose Park, Pennsylvania ($1,000), developer Richard Poe of North Palm Beach, Florida ($1,000), research and development specialist Brad Aronson of Avenue A Razorfish of Philadelphia ($3,600), and accountant Mia Aronson of Avenue A Razorfish of Philadelphia ($3,600). 

Polakoff had 21 individual donations of $1,000 or more in 2007: Crossroads CEO Walter Gerken of Berkeley ($1,000), consultant Peter Boland of Berkeley ($1,000), retired attorney Stanley Friedman of Berkeley ($1,000), Morethana Carpenter owner John Ferguson of El Cerrito ($1,000), attorney/developer Anthony Wilson of Oakland ($1,000), Bright Sound Energe CEO John Woolard of Oakland ($1,000), Charles Schwab Bank Manager Julia Brown of Oakland ($1,000), homemaker Darlene Gerken of Corona Del Mar ($2,000), The Westley Group venture capitalist and former governor candidate Steven Westley of Menlo Park ($1,000), Wells Fargo banker Christopher Lirely of Occidental ($1,000), Bentley School Director of Development and Communications Devereaux Smith of Piedmont ($1,000), Fleishman Hillard partner and Western Region Vice President Larry Kramer of Piedmont ($1,000), Thresold Pharmaceuticals researcher Joan Finnigan of Portola Valley ($1,000), Shartsis Friese LLP attorney Robert Friese of San Francisco ($1,000), Atherton Lane Advisors investment advisor Gary Patterson of San Francisco ($1,000), investor Alice Russell-Shapiro of San Francisco ($3,600), investor William Russell-Shapiro of San Francisco ($3,600), investor/philanthropist Stacey Case of San Francisco ($3,600), Capital Group Senior Vice President Gregory Wendt of San Francisco ($1,000), entrepreneur Douglas Carlston of San Rafael ($1,000), JP Morgan social venture capitalist Michael Dorsey of Woodside ($1,000), and New York State Budget Division Director of Budget Paul Francis of Pelham, New York ($1,000). 

Including the O’Malleys, Worthington had nine individual contributors giving $1,000 or more: retiree Ann Timmins of Berkeley ($1,000), book production consultant David Blake of Berkeley ($3,600), environmental advocate David Tam of Berkeley ($3,600), editor/consultant Nancy Carleton of Berkeley ($3,600), retiree Louise Larson of Richmond ($1,200), Cooper White & Cooper LLP legal assistant Martin Spence of San Pablo ($3,000), and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP attorney Jeffrey Siu-Yuen Chan of New York City ($3,600). 

Worthington also gave $7,200 to his own campaign in two separate donations.