He is petty, lacks ideas and beat up his ex-girlfriend. Why is he running?
Joel Young was the first candidate for Assembly to reach out to me last year Until then, I hadn’t really thought much about who was running. I didn’t know anything about Young, so I did what I’d do before meeting anyone: I googled him. Young can only hope that voters don’t take that step. If they do, they will come across story after story about Young’s “altercation” with a former girlfriend, one that left her with injuries to her face and neck deemed consistent with domestic violence. The story is pretty sordid. The woman walked into Young’s apartment and found him in bed with another woman. She yelled and slapped him. She says he responded by slapping her forcefully and cranking her head on the bed repeatedly. He says it was self-defense. According to a sworn statement by the emergency room physician’s assistant who saw her, her injuries were consistent with domestic violence and not self-defense. Young is a former football player, his ex-girlfriend is 5’2″ and weighs 120 lbs.
When Mike and I met with Young, the story about the extent of her injuries had not yet appeared. At that point I was prone to see it as a “he said/she said” sort of thing. I was willing to give Young the benefit of the doubt, and focus on his merits as an Assembly candidate. I was not impressed.
The first issue had to do with his platform, at the time it was: jobs, education and the environment. The problem is that that’s everyone’s platform and Young had nothing original to say about those issues, no new solutions to offer. It sounded to me like these were issues he’d chosen for their appeal to voters and he was reciting a script when talking about them. I didn’t feel he had any passion for them, or really, for anything, perhaps other than getting elected. This impression was solidified at a recent candidates’ forum where Young answered almost every question by repeating the mantra “jobs, jobs, jobs” – but never once intimating how he would create more jobs in this economy.
During our meeting, I brought up the issue of the domestic violence allegations. He was insistent that the woman in question had never been his girlfriend, just someone he casually dated and had broken up with. He said it was she who beat him, he was just covering himself against her attacks. Not having read about the hospital records, that seemed plausible. But then Young said her allegations were politically motivated – which made much less sense.
I let Joel know that I am a human rights activist and that my biggest concern is about protecting civil liberties. This brought the conversation to the issue of freedom of expression and Joel’s conviction that we should do away with anonymity on the internet. You see, the story about the domestic violence incident was “broken” by indybay and was not signed. Joel saw that as reason enough to do away with the first amendment protections on anonymous speech. I tried to convince him otherwise, explain to him the importance of anonymous speech, the risks that victims and whistleblowers experience if they are forced to reveal their identities. He didn’t get, he wouldn’t get it, what happened to him was the only thing that mattered.
I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that I will not support someone who is willing to restrict freedom of speech. But I also will not support someone who will use his power as a legislator to protect his own interests, who puts pettiness ahead of public policy, who see himself as more important than the people he represents. I won’t support someone who has no principles.
After the scandal, Joel Young lost the support of many of his backers. He was seen as the heir apparent of termed-out Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, but Swanson quickly distanced himself from Young. Kathy Neal, another prominent supporter, was so appalled by Young’s behavior that she almost threw her hat into the Assembly race. His prodigious fundraising, slowed down significantly. But Young still retains a lot of support from within the African American community and parts of Labor. Sharon Cornu, the former Secretary-Treasurer at the Alameda Labor Council, has been particularly effective in cajoling endorsements for Young from labor unions and activists.
The issue of the scandal, moreover, has not yet come up in the campaign. Neither Bonta nor Guillen have brought it up in their literature – though surely they will if Young makes it past June. The media hasn’t put much of an emphasis on it – though Young’s most recent mishap, when he threatened and spat on a legislative aid, was covered briefly by the Oakland Tribune.