It’s been little over a month since Rob Bonta was sworn in as California’s Attorney General after being appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom and he is already busy selling access. For a mere $1500 contributed to his wife’s campaign for Assembly, you get to meet the AG by zoom and, well, you’ll know what you want out of that meeting. As a bonus, you can also meet with his candidate wife, in case you have any special requests in the likely case she gets elected to the Assembly. 2 for the price of 1, now that’s a bargain.
Mia Bonta’s campaign casts fraudulent vote in failed attempt to obtain the California Democratic Party’s endorsement
Update: Bonta’s campaign appears to have forged delegate signatures on dues waiver applications.
At the top of Mia Bonta‘s Facebook page, right below her name, lies a question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. In the present circumstances the question sounds almost mocking. Party activists have kept quiet about the attempted fraud to secure the California Democratic Party endorsement — exactly because they are afraid of angering Mia’s husband, Rob Bonta, California’s recently appointed Attorney General. Nobody wants to make powerful enemies. It’s exactly this fear that makes powerful politicians get away with all sorts of misdeeds.
Rob Bonta, California Assemblymember for District 18 (Alameda, San Leandro and much of Oakland), was appointed Attorney General a couple of months ago – leaving his Assembly seat vacant and precipitating a special election in late June.
Mia Bonta, Rob Bonta’s wife, is running for his seat against a myriad of other candidates (8 at last count). Five of those candidates sought the endorsement of the California Democratic Party – a valuable endorsement as campaign finance laws allow political parties to funnel money into their endorsed candidate’s campaigns with little transparency and high contribution limits.
To get the coveted endorsement, a candidate needs to receive 60% of the votes cast in the endorsement election. The rules of who can vote in endorsement elections are rather arcane, but in this case it included about 40 people who had been Democratic Party delegates for Assembly District 18 in 2020. I was one of them.
It was clear the endorsement would go to Mia Bonta or nobody at all. Rob Bonta controlled many of the votes, either because he had appointed the delegates himself or he endorsed and financially supported the delegates. However, it was an open question whether he controlled enough delegates to get his wife the endorsement.
Not long before the endorsement meeting, a woman showed up to the house of the parents of a delegate. This delegate had not yet cast her ballot. The woman identified herself as Mia Bonta’s mother.
The woman presented the delegate’s father with a ballot already filled out. The woman falsely told him that his daughter had agreed to sign it.
She then asked him to sign his daughter’s name on the ballot. The father complied.
The woman from Mia Bonta’s campaign marked the ballot for Mia Bonta and e-mailed an image of it to the Party’s regional director, who was responsible for receiving the ballots and counting votes.
When the delegate learned what happened, she immediately contacted the regional director and told him that she had neither cast nor authorized anyone to cast a vote on her behalf.
The delegate then went on to cast a valid ballot for “no endorsement”. Mia Bonta ended up being three votes short of receiving the Party’s endorsement.
This whole chicanery might have flown under the radar, but at the end of the endorsement meeting, a delegate close to Rob Bonta asked whether anyone had cast two votes. This prompted the regional director to explain what happened.
Mia Bonta has yet to give any explanations as to why her campaign cast a fraudulent vote. I reached out to her personally asking to speak about this, but have not received a response. It is possible that Mia’s mother acted on her own and lied to the campaign about who had signed the ballot and how she had procured it. It is also possible that she acted under the direction of either Mia or someone else in the campaign.
The candidate, of course, is ultimately responsible for what their campaign does. It is incumbent on Mia to address this matter publicly. How and whether she does it will speak to her character, and voters have the right to know about it before they cast their votes. As things stand, Mia Bonta is the likely frontrunner in this race. Thanks in no small part to Rob Bonta’s efforts, her campaign has raised twice as much money as her closest opponent. If she does win the Assembly seat, her term should not start with questions about her ethics.
Update: I have recently confirmed that Mia Bonta’s campaign not only cast a fraudulent vote, but they are likely to have forged one or more delegate’s signatures in fee waiver applications. In order to be able to vote for this endorsement, delegates had to have paid their 2020 delegate fees. Usually, delegates pay these fees together with their California Democratic Party annual convention fees. However, there was no convention in 2020 (the 2020 convention actually took place in the fall of 2019) and thus many if not most delegates were in fee arrears when they learned they were called to vote for this endorsement. Delegates could either pay the $85 dues before the endorsement caucus or request a dues waiver due to financial difficulties. Requests for waiver require the signature of the delegate making the request.
The delegate mentioned above did not pay her 2020 dues nor did she request a dues waiver. However, a dues waiver application was filed with the party, which included a forged signature, and the only likely party to have made this fraudulent dues waiver request is the Mia Bonta campaign, the ones who cast the fraudulent vote in the name of the delegate.
It is possible, and even likely, that the Mia Bonta campaign also forged the signatures of other delegates who applied for due waivers and then proceded to vote for her, it appears that quite a few of the delegates who voted for Mia Bonta had their dues waived.
The California Democratic Party should investigate this matter. However, it is very unlikely that they will given the close relationship of the Party Chair, Rusty Hicks, with Rob Bonta, who endorsed him when he ran.
Similarly, falsifying someone’s signature with the intent to defraud is a crime under California law. However, no DA is likely to investigate the campaign of the wife of the Attorney General.
Full disclosure: I voted no endorsement on the CDP’s endorsement election, but I personally intend to vote for Victor Aguilar – as a San Leandro City Council member Victor has worked to bring reforms to the police department and has pushed a progressive agenda. I thought I had left political blogging behind – but misdeeds like this one need to be part of the public record.
(Note, this article was slightly edited for grammar/clarity.).
For all intents and purposes this blog is dead – as our activism has moved elsewhere -, but I was asked for voting recommendations for this election, and I’m happy to oblige. Unlike previous years, I did not do exhaustive research of candidates, so I’m basing some of these on the work done by other progressive groups, such as F.U.N Progressives in southern Alameda County and Our Revolution East Bay in the northern part.
President: Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders life-long conviction in the urgency of empowering the working class and people of color have created a movement that can stand up both to Donald Trump and the entrenched economic interests that have stolen our democracy. He is our best choice to survive as a nation.
Assembly District 15
- Soli Alpert
- Michael Barnett
- Paola Laverde
- Barbara “Bobbi” López
- Igor A. Tregub
- Alfred Twu
Assembly District 16
- Brittni Kiick
- Jacqueline Tarin-Rankl
- Jody Tomic
Assembly District 18
- Victor Aguilar
- Andrea Luna Bocanegra
- Howard Egerman
- Henry Gage III
- Iris Merriouns
- Jose Carlos Moreno
- Pamela Price
- Royl Roberts
- Austin Tam
- Marchon Tatmon
Assembly District 20 (vote for no more than 7)
- Vinnie Bacon
- Austin Michael Bruckner
- Frank Burton
- Vanessa Sadsad
- Melissa Shuen-Mallory
- Barisha Spriggs
- Cullen Tiernan
Assembly District 25
- Martha Kreeger
UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE
13th District: Barbara Lee
15th District: Samantha Campbell
17th District: Ro Khanna
7th District: Marisol Rubio
9th District: Nancy Skinner
MEMBER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY
- AD 15: No recommendation
- AD 16: Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (running against Republican)
- AD 18: Rob Bonta (running against Republican)
- AD 20 Alexis Villalobos
- AD 25 Alex Lee
Superior Court Judge, Office #2
Note: I didn’t interview either candidate, and after originally recommending Fickes, I heard from other members of the movement that they were supporting Condes. If there is a runoff between these two, I’ll make a clear recommendation in the general.
Member, Board Of Education, 2nd Trustee Area
Member, Board Of Education, 5th Trustee Area
Not Luis Reynoso.
Neither of the other two candidates is progressive. Lisa Brunner, a white member of the Hayward School Board, is good meaning but sometimes oblivious to racial issues. Janevette Cole is the charter schools candidate.
Supervisor, 1st District
Supervisor, 4th District
Supervisor, 5th District
13 – School Bonds: Yes
C – Early Education: Yes
Oakland Measure Q: Yes
By Pedro Hernandez
San Leandro didn’t make a name for itself by sticking with the status quo.
The city of progress embraced innovation at every turn, from the iconic downtown pedestrian path to its fiber optic loop connecting businesses and residents to free wifi. It’s no surprise that San Leandro was at the forefront of election reform, joining its Bay Area neighbors to bring ranked choice voting (RCV) to city elections.
It was a logical fix for San Leandro, easily and effectively eliminating the costly top-two runoff while preserving the democratic principle that candidates need majority support to win elections.
The easy, 1-2-3 system empowers voters to rank their top three preferences on the ballot. If no candidate has a majority of first choice votes after the initial tally, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Those who ranked that candidate as their first choice have their ballots counted for their next choice. This instant-runoff continues until a candidate wins with more than 50 percent of the votes.
The 2010 debut in San Leandro – the same year as Oakland and Berkeley began using RCV – proved an early success for the more fair and democratic voting system.
Voters took to the polls in droves – turnout in the mayoral race jumped 11 percent compared to the November 2006 runoff, and a whopping 54 percent more than the June 2006 primary.
The ballots cast showed voters understood and appreciated the new system right away – 75 percent ranked at least two of the five mayoral contenders.
And the exceptionally close nature of the six-way contest – just 74 votes separated incumbent Mayor Tony Santos from challenger Stephen Cassidy in the first round – made voters’ choices all the more impactful, with more than 85 percent of ballots still counted through the sixth and final elimination round.
Though Santos carried a narrow lead in the first round, Cassidy’s win was the most fair outcome. Cassady appealed to more voters, allowing him to pick up the second and third choices needed to secure a majority.
The path of progress continued with successes in San Leandro’s subsequent council and mayoral RCV elections, which engaged high numbers of voters to cast accurate ballots that gave rise to a group of elected officials who not only received the broadest possible support of their constituents, but better reflected the city’s increasingly diverse population.
The four races decided by in 2014 were held in one election with RCV instead of two. It gave San Leandro its first city council that was majority-female and people of color, including the first elected representative of the Latino community, Councilwoman Corina Lopez in District 5.
The more reflective city hall is part of a larger trend in cities across the Bay Area that have seen significant increases in representation for women and people of color since adopting ranked choice voting, as several studies have shown.
And voters continued to give top marks to ranked choice voting, indicating they understood it and wanted to keep it, including previously disenfranchised groups such as young people, people of color and low-income voters, according to a 2014 survey. Ranked choice voting rewards candidates that seek support from beyond their base, which in turn, leads to more civil and issue-driven campaigns.
The upcoming ranked choice voting elections on November 6 give San Leandro another chance to remind the rest of the country that we lead the way toward a better future, including in our government elections. Show up, rank your ballot and stand for the progress, fairness and diversity.
San Leandro, like many cities in the Bay Area, is in crisis. About half of our community members are renters and skyrocketing rents are pushing them out of their homes, either displacing them out of the Bay Area or putting them on the streets. This lack of community stability is affecting neighborhoods and schools, as the challenges of facing an ever-changing student population are significant. Yet the City Council has done nothing to address this situation. This is not surprising because the Rental Owners Association and landlords have poured money into the incumbents’ campaigns.
Lack of ethics and integrity is, indeed, a generalized problem in San Leandro city government. The former City Manager, fearing that accusations of sexual harassment by the head of a local nonprofit would become public, sent out a rambling and utterly unprofessional letter to the press, in which he detailed how he’d have business meetings with his accuser in the front seat of her car and play ping-pong with a local lobbyist. In the letter, he also discussed the contents of private conversations with Council members. Rather than fire him on the spot for unprofessional behavior, the Council put him on paid leave for months while he looked for a new job and and gave him a $350K parting gift.
What San Leandro needs is progressive and ethical leadership, thus our recommendations below. Note that San Leandro has ranked choice voting (RCV) for its Mayor and City Council races.
Incumbent Pauline Cutter has been a disaster as Mayor of San Leandro. She seems to have approached her job as a money-making scheme. Early in her term, her daughter was hired by the City (with the approval of the City Manager) for a highly-paid position in the Parks and Recreation department – despite nepotism being explicitly forbidden by the Charter of the City of San Leandro. Cutter would later defend the City Manager against sex harassment accusations, resist efforts to ask for his resignation after he wrote an unprofessional and incoherent public letter, and later vote to give him a $300K farewell gift on his way out.
Cutter has spent much of her time traveling at tax-payer expense, but she can’t point to any concrete accomplishments from her tenure. The promise of San Leandro becoming a high tech center based on our fiberloop never materialized, and instead our industrial area is filled with warehouses that pay low wages. Moreover, Cutter has supported police militarization and despite her promise that the counter-attack armored vehicle she voted to buy for the police would not be used on demonstrations, it’s been deployed twice for such purposes. Cutter is a supporter of mass surveillance, including sharing this data with ICE.
Her opponent City Council member Benny Lee has basically the same record and positions. He demonstrated his lack of ethics by taking large campaign contributions from a garbage company that was bidding for a contract with the City of Oakland, and lobbied the neighboring City to award that contract to his contributor. The competitor was based on San Leandro, so his move could have cost San Leandro $2 million. Lee’s major “contribution” to San Leandro has been to propose honoring the genocidal Chinese government by flying its flag over City Council. As Tibetans burn themselves to bring attention to their plight and a million Ughyurs are imprisoned in China, Lee’s loyalty seems to be foremost with the Chinese government.
Fortunately, San Leandro has another choice: Jeromey Shafer. The co-founder of San Leandro for Bernie and leader of Our Revoution San Leandro, Shafer is intelligent, hard working, thoughtful and unapologetically progressive. He is committed to human rights and social justice. If elected, he will champion rent-control in San Leandro and will take an innovative approach to solving our other social ills. He will stop the militarization of our police forces and actually make the police department accountable to the city, not the other way around as it seems to be now. He is running a clean money campaign, rejecting all funds from corporations and developers and limiting contributions to $99. Shafer will also restore transparency and accountability and a sense of ethics to the office. Really, San Leandro can do no better than to support him.
Dan Dillman is our second choice because, whatever his faults, he cares about San Leandro.
Incumbent Deborah Cox is another white-moderate who supports police militarization and mass surveillance and opposes rent-control. She drew controversy for not returning the financial contribution of a politician who used the “N” word in a public meeting.
Eva Arce, a newcomer to politics, is a strong progressive who has seen her community fall apart by the Council’s regressive politics and wants to restore it. She is a big supporter of rent control, police accountability and fixing potholes. She is running a clean money campaign, rejecting all funds from corporations and developers and limiting contributions to $99. She is an intelligent woman, who does her homework and will tackle issues with a fresh, yet progressive perspective. She is just what we need in San Leandro.
Ken Pon is also a moderate, but to the left of Cox. He opposes the militarization of police and favored marijuana dispensaries when Cox was ranting against them at City Council meetings.
District 3: Victor Aguilar
School Board member Victor Aguilar was a progressive back when people didn’t want to admit to being progressive (his opponent, incumbent Lee Thomas, has never claimed himself as one). He supports rent control, police accountability, clean money (he is not taking any corporate or developer money), and free speech. As a commissioner, he refused to agree to the City Council’s demand that he forgo his first amendment rights and agree to no disparage the City Manager.
Incumbent Lee Thomas takes money from landlords and opposes rent controls while supporting police militarization.
District 5: Maxine Oliver-Benson (with reservations)
Both candidates are problematic. Incumbent Corina Lopez supports police militarization and has done painfully little to bring accountability to the police and remained a supporter of the City Manager even after he showed himself to lack professionalism, but at least she may vote in favor of rent control if someone else brings it up to the table. She also was the impetus behind the sanctuary city declaration, but would not go a step further and make it an ordinance with some teeth – this allowed the Police Department to continue sharing data with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which in turn shared it with ICE. Moreover, Lopez can be difficult to work with, she easily gets offended and needs to have her ego massaged lest she retaliate over perceived slights.
Her opponent, Maxine Oliver-Benson, is an African American woman who has spent her life in East Oakland as an activist. She is corporate free and has many strong progressive values – she favors rent control and police accountability, for example, and is rejecting all money from corporations, developers and other special interests (unlike Lopez). However, she supports increasing mass surveillance in San Leandro – which Lopez says she does not.
Find more progressive voter recommendations in Progressive California.