Public Comment

New: Big Money Invades the 15th Assembly District

Mal Warwick
Tuesday October 28, 2014 - 07:48:00 PM

Since I have now been attacked twice in the Daily Planet by someone named Joanna Graham, most recently yesterday in a “Take Two” addendum to her original piece, it’s time to respond. Ms. Graham is apparently exercised that I stated the obvious about the forces at play in the 15th Assembly District race in an opinion piece I wrote elsewhere. 

In her first diatribe, Ms. Graham states that she has never seen such a negative campaign as the one waged by Elizabeth Echols for the 15th A.D. seat. This is laughable. What planet does Ms. Graham live on? The negative campaigns I’ve personally witnessed over the years involve vicious ad hominem attacks, statements quoted out of context, and outright lies. Ms. Echols, her campaign workers, the Democratic Party, and I have all done nothing but to state — reflecting the public record — that two so-called “independent expenditure committees” (special-interest PACs) have weighed in on behalf of Tony Thurmond. The last I checked, they had already spent more than $200,000 to support his campaign. Those are facts. There’s nothing negative about stating simple facts. 

It is also a fact that a statewide organization called the California Oil Producers Association — the pro-fracking lobby — has contributed $450,000 to the two PACs that are supporting Mr. Thurmond. Ms. Graham disingenuously suggests that it’s impossible to tell who’s behind the money spent in support of Mr. Thurmond. But there’s no way around it: the frackers are supporting Mr. Thurmond. 

Ms. Graham also expressed displeasure that I addressed my remarks to Berkeley readers by referring to the city in my article. A less biased reader might have recognized that I had written the article as an Op-Ed for Berkeleyside, which has emphasized that it is interested only in news for and about Berkeley. I might add that Ms. Graham’s articles appear in a publication called the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

Ms. Graham has particularly called out for attention my assertion that the frackers’ reasons for supporting Mr. Thurmond are unknown. While this is true, since the frackers have not made any public comment about the race, it’s outrageous for her to suggest that they are doing so because they want to defeat him. Nobody spends more than $200,000 on a political campaign in order to defeat the candidate they’re backing! 

I have no idea whether Ms. Graham knows the two candidates involved in this race. I do. I regard Tony Thurmond as a nice guy. I don’t know him at all well, but I believe he’s sincere and well-meaning. However, Mr. Thurmond is a former one-term city council member and one-term school board member. Neither his resume nor his demonstrated abilities are in the same league as those of Elizabeth Echols, who has held responsible senior positions in two Democratic Administrations, in the nonprofit sector, and in the private sector. We are extremely fortunate that a person of her caliber would agree to run. We need a representative in Sacramento who will immediately gain the respect of her colleagues and hit the ground running. That’s why I’m supporting Elizabeth Echols.