Abel Guillen

Oct 012014

I have already written about my endorsement of Dan Siegel for Mayor of Oakland.

I am making no endorsements in the Oakland City Council District 2 race. I was a strong supporter of Abel Guillen when he ran for State Assembly, and I still have a lot of respect for him. However, I am very concerned that he put political considerations before principle and did not speak out against the Domain Awareness Center. For that reason, I cannot endorse him.

I had a long and very productive conversation with Dana King. I found her to be an intelligent, prepared, caring woman who is running for City Council for all the right reasons. Friends who have dealt with her in her non-profit work hold a lot of respect for both her commitment to social justice and her ability to get stuff done. I think she will be a breath of fresh air in a very political and dysfunctional City Council, and I think her research skills and commitment for the truth will serve Oaklanders well. I am not endorsing her, however, because as I didn’t ask her to speak out against the DAC, I cannot be sure what her response would have been. Therefore I’m just staying out of this race.

Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell

City Council District 4: Annie Campbell Washington

Endorsing Annie Campbell Washington for Oakland City Council District 4 is a no brainer.  She is smart, competent, a good listener, friendly and has a good sense of humor.  She exudes humanity and lacks that airs of superiority so many politicians seem to have developed.  I’m confident that if she’s elected, she will listen to all her constituents, find the validity in all voices and weigh different interests to come up with a policy that makes sense for the community.

Politically, Campbell Washington is your typical Oakland progressive.  Her concerns include transit oriented development, developing a better system of bike lanes, supporting small businesses and trying to bring functionality to a deeply divided council.  She is also deeply committed to education and having the City support schools and working together.  She’s currently in the School Board and has two children who go to Oakland schools.

While I don’t believe we will always coincide, I can respect Campbell Washington’s thought process. Basically, she’s the sort of person whom I wish would run for Council here in San Leandro.

Her opponent is Jill Broadhurst,  the Executive Director of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, an organization that works against the rights of tenants. One of their major accomplishments is stopping legislation that would have made landlords pay interest on security deposits they hold for years/decades.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

City Council District 6: Desley Brooks

I will be the first to admit that I have not followed the Oakland City Council’s doing that closely. Brooks has been in office for many years, and I don’t have a clear picture of all her decisions.  However, I did watch all the hearings that related to the Domain Awareness Center – a facility that would integrate mass surveillance throughout Oakland –, and I was very impressed with how Brooks performed in the final hearing.

She was prepared, she understood the issues, it was clear that she had spoken with the ACLU and other stakeholders and understood their concerns; she did not let staff, who had been less than candid with the Council about this project, get away with half-truths and misrepresentations and finally she advocated an intelligent compromise.  I was very impressed.

Brooks has definitely made enemies, but as far as I can see this is based on the fact that she has a strong personality, she stands up for what she believes and the people she represents and she doesn’t back down.  That’s exactly the type of leaders that I want to see elected.  And it’s also exactly the type of criticism that is freely given to strong women, in particular strong women of color, by those who are uncomfortable when they rock the boat.

I reached out to most candidates for Oakland City Council and invited them to meet/speak with me and/or respond to a candidate questionnaire.  I only endorse candidates who are strong liberals, are committed to accountability, transparency and fact-based legislating and who are intelligent, competent and knowledgeable.  

Other Oakland Endorsements: Dan Siegel for Mayor and Tony Thurmond for Assembly.

See Marga’s 2014 Voter Guide for recommendations on propositions and other local endorsements.

Nov 032012

Dear Rob,

I just got *yet another* campaign mailer maligning your opponent, Abel Guillen.  This is the /twelfth/ mailer I get that supports you.  It’s the second that’s negative towards Abel.  The first one was put out by an independent committee, but this one comes straight out of your campaign.

Really, Rob?  Did you need to do that? Sure, Abel sent a negative mailer against you (and a pretty good one), but it was one of just two mailers we got supporting him.  We got twelve supporting you!  All pretty much repeating the same platitudes (would it be so hard to actually share your platform or any concrete proposal in /one/ of your mailers? I know your parents worked with César Chávez and that you are in favor of education, what else do you have to offer?), this one also attacks Abel.

Look, Rob, you are going to win.  All the money you spent, coupled with the hundreds of thousands of dollars PACs have spent on your behalf, will make sure you do.  And I think you will do a good job, even though all that money indebts you to so many special interest groups.  You are smart, you understand the issues and how to approach them, you are a careful thinker and I think you have solid Democratic values.  That’s why I endorsed you a year ago, and kept my endorsement even though now I support Abel.  I also think you are ethical – though beware that politics threatens everyone’s moral core.  I think you will become one of the stars of the Democratic Party.  I look forward to seeing you in that role

Your bright political future is even more of a reason to refrain from attacking Abel.  At this point in the race, with 12 mailers for you versus 2 for him, why the need to be petty?  Why create enemies and leave a sour taste in the mouths of voters?  Don’t we have enough acrimony in the Presidential race?  And did you forget the campaign maxim that you attack when you think you’ll lose, and you are graceful when you think you’ll win? Don’t you think you’ll win?

And Rob, one last thing.  Twelve mailers is way too much.  How many hundreds of thousands of dollars have you and your supporters spent on them?  You talk about being all for education, but why not just send 6 (still 3 times more than Guillen), and give the rest of the money to the schools?  Here, in San Leandro, we could afford to keep our music and arts program for at least a year with that money.

Thanks for reading,

Margarita Lacabe

This letter has also been posted on Rob Bonta’s Facebook page

May 062012

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen has charisma, energy and optimism – but is he mature enough for Sacramento?

When you meet Abel Guillen, and get past his physical presence (Abel is a big guy), you cannot but feel at ease with him.  He is friendly, smart, empathetic – and real.  The latter is something you don’t find often in politics:  people who don’t hide themselves behind facades or carefully sculpted images.  To use the Bush-age phrase, Abel is someone you’d definitely like to have a beer (and some nachos) with.  I can’t really say the same thing about either of his opponents.

Abel’s genuineness extends to his ideals and his agenda.  He’d be your typical grass root progressive, if such thing existed any more.  His belief in a more equitable society, in education as the “ticket out” of poverty, but also the cornerstone of a democracy, harkens to a time before the Democratic party lost its idealism and commitment to justice in all its forms.   Abel wants to create a better California from the ground up.  Education, healthcare and social services are essential; children who are malnourished, sick and uneducated will not only fail to accomplish their own potential as human beings, but might become a burden on society.   The nurses and teachers support him because they see him as the most likely candidate to fight for these services – and I’d even say, the most likely candidate to fight for anything, period.  Abel is a fighter, he is in his mid-thirties and has won quite a few battles, he still has hope.

I had already endorsed Rob Bonta when Abel called last January and asked to meet with me.   Abel had not answered my request for a meeting back in the Fall, when I was interviewing all the candidates. I’d figured, if a candidate doesn’t want to make an effort to meet with me, he doesn’t really want or deserve my endorsement.  Plus I was a bit suspicious of Abel to begin with.  The pictures of him on his website made him look arrogant; he is not married or has children, which for me is a big minus.  Still, my friend Jim Prola kept telling me that Abel was the candidate for me, that he was the closest to my political beliefs and that I should meet him.  So I did.  His hope and optimism won me over.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know that I have become disenchanted with politics, and the possibilities of real change.  I the last six years, I worked on the campaigns of several School Board members, the Mayor and a council member, hoping that if we just had the right people in office they’d bring change.  None of them did, it’s all more politics as usual with different suits.  Nationally, things are even worse.  I will admit that I never drank Obama’s kool-aid, but for a few moments I dared, perhaps, to hope.  Then Obama made such a mockery of that word that I thought my hope would be buried forever.  And now comes Abel and maybe, just maybe, he’s rekindling it.

I think Abel has hope, I think he believes things can be better.  He, himself, is the son of poor immigrants.  His parents came from Mexico, his dad worked his way from a dishwasher to a pastry chef in a hotel, his mom became a cook.  He grew up in the Mission and saw friends and acquaintances fall victim to violence, but he persevered, was lucky enough to get the right teachers and mentors, and went on to graduate from Berkeley.  His goal, he told me, was to “do good, but also do well,” anything else would be a betrayal of his family and their dreams.  I think that is exactly the philosophy we should instill on our children.  Abel got a job with a financial company helping school districts pass bonds, it’s a good job, he does well, but by helping schools he’s also doing good.  His work as a trustee at the Peralta Community Colleges board is yet another instance, he’s probably the most engaged trustee I’ve ever seen.

I have high hopes for Abel if he gets elected to the Assembly.  He has some very innovative ideas that he’ll be able to push directly.  One that has my full heart support is that of creating a state bank.  A bank that is not driven by profit could do much good and definitely much less bad than one that is.  It would assure that any revenue was re-invested in the state, it would make it easier for small businesses to have access to credit and could help all consumers to not be taken in by ridiculous bank fees.  I do hope that if Abel is not elected, whoever is will take this idea on.  But it’s exactly this type of bold ideas that make me excited about Abel.

I do, however, also have a couple of concerns.  My main one has to do about how he’s ran his campaign.  Not following up and meeting with me back in the fall was a basic mistake – whether I have any influence with voters through my blog is debatable, but as a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) I do get to vote on which candidates the party should endorse.  But there have been many other mistakes – from not getting a good photographer to do his pictures (he still has that picture with his arrogant smirk on his website), to having badly designed mailers, to not following up with people who were willing to host events or do volunteer work for him, etc. etc.

Just as problematic is the fact that his campaign manager, Winnie Anderson, decided to run for the ACDCC this June.  Anderson was recruited to run by Ignacio De La Fuente, an Oakland City Council member who is trying to take over the party.   I think any casual political observer would see how having your campaign manager take the side of someone who is trying to subvert the party, and have her run against some of your supporters (I, for example, am also running for re-election to the ACDCC) is not a good move.  Indeed, it’s almost a guaranteed move to lose support within the party.  I’m not personally bothered that Anderson is running against me, 19 people are running for 10 positions, but this shows such a lack of judgment by Abel that it makes me question whether he’s politically mature enough to go to the Assembly.

All that said, the choice for me is really between Bonta and Guillen.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I have yet not decided who I shall vote for.  I think, however, that either is an excellent choice.

May 042012

Guillen and Bonta visit our mail boxes, but who makes the best impression?

Just got my first mailer from Rob Bonta, after getting four or five from Abel J. Guillen.  And for election junkies, here is my analysis 🙂  I’ll post pictures of the mailers after I scan them.

Bonta made a bad move by 1) having his mailers delivered after Guillen’s and 2) having them be very similar colors.  Guillen’s is more purplish, but they are too alike.  That means that after so much stuff from Guillen, I almost didn’t look at Bonta’s and just assumed it was another piece from Guillen.

Guillen gets brownie points for having gotten his first mailer out first, but loses them for having sent out so many in such a short period of time.  Granted, one of them is not from his campaign but from the Nurses association, but it’s so similar in look to the other ones that you wouldn’t be able to tell.  Four mailers make him look desperate and begin to make me wonder about his concern for the environment.   I think I’m going to scream if I get another mailer from him with my absentee ballot!

Guillen’s mailers wouldn’t be so annoying (and ineffective) if it wasn’t for the fact that they are too similar.  Two of them (granted, one is a walking piece but it was dropped in my mailbox) feature the exact same photograph of him.  Unfortunately, it’s not even a good photograph.  It includes too much of his body and given that he’s a big guy, that takes some attention away from his face.  Even worse is that the picture was taken in the sun so he’s squinting.  When you are hoping that people trust you, it’s actually important to have them be able to see your eyes.

But the similarity in the look of the mailers also implies a similarity in the message – so there is no incentive, even for an engaged voter, to look carefully at more than one of them, specially as they have nothing that visually grab you.

And even bigger sin, however, is the fact that Abel’s mailers hide his name.  The most important part of any campaign is to have voters remember your name (and hopefully in a good way).  Expert say that they need to see your name at least five times for it to stick in their minds.  That means that the first rule for a mailer is: have the name of the candidate prominently displayed on the first page.  And that means that it should be in larger letters and a different font than anything else on the mailer.  I truly don’t understand how Abel could have missed something so basic.   (Now, this rule can be broken when you make a mailer so compelling that people actually turn the page and/or read it – but a mere picture of the candidate won’t accomplish that).

I wish I didn’t have anything more to criticize, but Abel’s mailers also need to be faulted for their design and content.  Abel’s first mailer was an 8 1/2 by 11, double page affair.  Inside it had two photographs (including one of just himself, squiting, again) and so much text, in so many different fonts and so many different sections of the page (10 in addition to his logo) that makes it too busy and a nightmare to read.  Indeed, I had to force myself to read it, and couldn’t even do it on my first try.  I just wanted to close my eyes and run away from it.

His second double-paged mailer was slightly better.  It has a nice picture of a beautiful African-American professor (the race matters here, as Abel is trying to show that he has support from all demographics), but the name issue remains.  While the text inside is better organized (less prone to give me a headache), there is way too much of it.  He has four paragraphs about himself and five points on his accomplishments, plus a quote from a newspaper.  Again, I love Abel but even I will not read so much stuff.

The two postcards I’ve gotten from him are better in that they at least have less text but he seems to be unaware of the rule that 1) you should have only three items per mailer (that’s as much as a reader is willing to look at and remember) and 2) you shouldn’t have long paragraphs.  Candidates should remember that people get their mailers along with their mail – which means they are flipping through it and unless for some reason they grab them, they won’t do much more than glance at them.

And that may actually be a good thing – for the content on Guillen’s mailers is also repetitious.  He mostly talks about what he has accomplished in the Peralta Board, which would be great if he was running for re-election, but he’s running for Assembly.  If he’s going to talk about accomplishments, he needs to explicitly divorce at least some of them from the Board.

Now, I’ve only received that one postcard from Rob Bonta, so it may not be fair to compare him to Guillen yet.  After all, his mailers to be may be just atrocious.  But Bonta does several things right on this postcard.    First of all, his name is prominent on both sides of the postcard.  It’s in the style of his lawn sign (assuming he has one), which I wonder if is a trend our graphic designer started in Mike’s campaign or existed before that.  I might have liked the sign to be a bit larger, though.  Bonta should remember older people vote more and some of us can see less and less.

I also wish the picture of hims with his family – all smiling at an ice cream parlor – would be larger.  Now, I understand they had space limitations, but a good photo editor would have been able to delete the space between him and his younger children and crop the edges of the picture some more and thus be able to make their faces more prominent (remember those older people with bad eyesight).    On the plus side, the picture is wonderful.  It’s a perfect setting, it emphasizes the fact that he is a family man and his children and wife are just beautiful so it’s a pleasure to look at them (yeah, I think it’s horrible that beautiful people grab more attention, but it’s a fact of life).

The other side of the mailer is OK.  It has two pictures of him.  A larger one with firefighters, which is good, and another one sitting with a bunch of kids – which, again, is too small for me to see without effort.  He is smart and keeps to the rule of three, listing three accomplishments in which he bolds just a few words (so people can glance at them and get the point) and with less excessive text.  I do think, however, that the font should have been darker and the margins had a brighter color that would draw me more to that side.  Content wise, one of his three points wasn’t clearly linked to his work as Vice Mayor and showed benefits for people beyond his current stakeholders.

I am curious to see if anyone is interested on this type of  campaign analysis, so I would appreciate if you let me know by commenting, or at least “liking” or “sharing” this article on Facebook.  Thanks!

Apr 252012

Bonta, Guillen and Young vie for 18th Assembly District Seat

Candidates for CA AD 18

Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen and Joel Young


Who are they and who you should vote for.

*Updated on May 7, 2012*



Any day now, Californian absentee voters will be receiving their mail-in ballots for the June 2012 primary elections.   For years, San Leandro was part of Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts which included our neighbors to the south and east.  Redistricting has changed all that and we now join Alameda and Oakland in a district in which San Leandro has comparably little influence.  It’s thus not surprising that there are no San Leandrans running for state or national office this time around.  As of this year, Barbara Lee will represent us in Congress and Loni Hancock in the California Senate (both need to be re-elected but neither has serious competition).  The 18th District Assembly seat, however, will become vacant because of term limits.  Three candidates – two from Oakland and one from Alameda – are vying for it.

During the last several months I have met and talked extensively with each of the candidates.  I have also heard them at different fora.  Based on what I learned, I have endorsed both Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen.  I’m not usually a fan of dual endorsements, but both these candidates have a lot to offer, in different ways: both are smart and dedicated, but while I see Rob being more methodical and better able to write good legislation, I like Abel’s passion and I think he is more likely to stay true to his progressive ideals.  The third candidate, Joel Young, in my opinion lacks gravitas and seems to have impulse control issues that would not make him a good legislator.

I have written my impressions of each candidate individually.

Rob Bonta is a Yale educated lawyer and a family man.  He is very smart, a quick thinker and able to see the potential consequences of particular legislative decisions.  I think he will be an excellent legislator – I also think he’s smart enough to recognize the perils of the political process and hopefully ethical enough to navigate around them.  If elected, I see Bonta having the potential to go all the way to the Governor’s mansion (or is it an apartment now?)  and even the White House.  Bonta seems to be the front runner so far.

Abel Guillen is the son of Mexican immigrants, a dishwasher and a cook and grew up in the Mission.  He is the American success story, through commitment and hard work he got into Berkeley with the goal of  “doing good, but also doing well”.  As the VP of a school finance firm, he will be able to navigate the State budget better than most and he has creative ideas about how to improve the economy – including the creation of a state bank – that merit consideration.  Guillen’s biggest strength, however, is his commitment to the community and his passion for achieving positive change.  He has a broad base of support, including nurses and teachers.

Joel Young is an African American attorney and also a Berkeley graduate.  He is running on a platform of  “jobs, jobs, jobs” but has little to say as to how to create them.  Some personal scandals and his reaction towards them don’t speak well of his character.  He is supported, however, by a significant segment of labor and the African American community.