Mary Hayashi

Jun 042014

This is the second open primary that California voters faced, and what I, personally, have learned from it is that voter behavior was pretty much like in a regular primary.

To recap:

♦ Name Recognition Matters Greatly
Incumbents and candidates with generic names did particularly well.  My guess is that Helen Foster‘s 2nd placing in the Alameda County Superintendent race was due greatly to her name.  Similarly, there can be no explanation for either Leland Yee or Mary Hayashi placing third in the races, ahead of other candidates, beyond name recognition.

Ballot Designation Matters
The best explanation for why unknown Republican candidate David Evans is currently in a three-way-tie for second place in the Controller’s race with Democrats John Perez and Betty Yee, is that his ballot designation was as “Chief Financial Officer”.  His generic name probably helped as well.  Indeed, Helen Foster might also have been helped by choosing the ballot designation “Teacher” rather than the “Educator” chosen by two of her losing competitors.

Don’t Neglect Your Ballot Statement
I’m betting that Assembly Speaker John Perez’ poor showing in the Controller’s race is due to his lack of a candidate statement in the voter information pamphlet.   For many voters that’s the only source of information about a race.

♦Incumbents Win
Incumbents, even those who faced well-funded and/or well-known opponents, fared very well this June. It’s probably correlated with a low-information electorate.

Republicans will vote for Republican candidates and Democrats for Democratic candidates
While there has been much speculation about moderate Republicans and Democrats crossing party lines to help elect candidates with closer views to their own or just to play games, this doesn’t seem to have happened.  Only in districts with very high Democratic registration are we seeing 2 Democrats face each other in the general election.  Thus the prediction that you would have 2 Democrats in the CD 11 and 15, AD 16 and 25 and SD 10 races did not come to fruition.

You have to be a Democrat or Republican to win (added)
With the rise of declined-to-state voter registrations in California, and an open primary that allows the top-two candidates, regardless of party, to advance to the November general election, there was much speculation that independent candidates finally got a chance. Voters made it clear that they don’t.   Dan Schnur a former Republican strategist and head of the FPPC, took a chance by listing himself as NPP or “no party preference” in his run for Secretary of State and he came out below Leland Yee despite endorsements from major newspapers.  All the buzz behind spiritual author Marianne Williamson and her high name recognition still could not overcome her running as an NPP.

Negative Campaigning and Lying About Your Opponent Works
The research says otherwise, but all the dirty campaigning we saw in Alameda county seems to have worked.

Polls are Wrong
Not many polls were released around here, but the ones released in the CD 17 race had Mike Honda capturing a much smaller percentage of the vote.  Swalwell did not release his polls, but given that and the fact that he went after his Democratic opponent Ellen Corbett viciously, one can speculate that they didn’t have him winning by such a large margin either.  Mary Hayashi claimed she had a poll that showed her getting the majority of the votes, though that was before her shoplifting video was released.


Jun 042014

politicianDespite most open primary, most November contests will feature a Democrat vs. a Republican candidate

Races for Controller, State Superintendent, CD 15 and AD 16 still too close to call

Good morning San Leandro! Happy post-election day!

And what a stressful day it must be for many candidates in California!  The mailed & poll-day ballots have been counted, but many races are close enough that the absentee ballots turned in at the polls and provisional ballots may very well make the difference.

This election, I think, has been characterized by voter apathy and lack of knowledge about candidates, so name recognition was key.  Nothing else can explain that indicted-arms-dealer Leland Yee would come out third in the Secretary of State race with almost 300,000 votes!

Worth noting is that despite the open primary, most of the November elections in Alameda county are posed to be between a Democrat and a Republican. It would seem that Republicans will continue to vote for Republican candidates, rather than a more moderate Democrat, even when their candidate has no prayer of winning in November.

Results from the more certain contested races:

Karen Monroe and Helen K. Foster  will be competing against each other for Alameda County Superintendent of Schools. That means that we get our Chinese-flag-waving Ursula Reed in the City Council for 2 more years. I’m sure she’ll be lovely. Personally, I felt Foster had a good chance to win 2nd place based on her name alone, but she also was a smart campaigner, putting up signs and using internet ads to further that name recognition.

– With 3330 votes (so far), Barbara Halliday is the new Mayor-elect of Hayward. Look at that number again. Hayward has a population of almost 150,000 people and just 3330 voted for its new Mayor. As a comparison, San Leandro Mayor Cassidy was elected in 2010 with over 10K votes in a city with almost half its population. Hayward needs to change its elections to November and consider adopting ranked-choice voting.

– Incumbent Marvin Peixoto and Homeless Advocate Sara Lamnin have been elected to the Hayward City Council, both also with barely over 3K votes so far.

– As predicted by polls, Ro Khanna will be facing Mike Honda for the Congressional District 17 seat in November. The 20+ point spread between the candidates must be making Khanna nervous. He’ll need to decide whether to continue to play nice, as he builds support for a 2016 rematch or whether to take the gloves off and make the case why voters shouldn’t want to vote for Honda.

– It will be Bob Wieckowski  vs. Republican Peter Kuo for Senate District 10Mary Hayashi is left on the dust. Will she disappear quietly or will she use whatever money & fundraising power she has to go after her perceived enemies? We’ll just have to wait and see

– In Assembly District 15 (north Oakland to Pinole), it’ll be former Obama administration official & Alameda County Democratic Party member Elizabeth Echols vs. former Richmond Councilmember Tony Thurmond. With 6 other candidates out of the way, there will finally be a chance to distinguish between the two Democratic candidates.  This, by the way, only one of two Alameda County races where two candidates from the same party will face each other in November.

– In Assembly District 25 (Fremont & parts of Santa Clara county),  San Jose Councilmember Kansen Chu, a Democrat, will face Republican Bob Brunton. My endorsed candidate Teresa Cox came third, despite being heavily outspent by fourth-placer Armando Gomez (though those numbers could still change).

– Governor Jerry Brown will face Republican Neel Kashkari.  A blow to the tea party, but also Democrats who hoped a Donnelly win would depress Republican turnout in November. My bet is that it wouldn’t make a difference.

Alex Padilla will face Republican Pete Peterson for Secretary of State.


Eric Swalwell will clearly be re-elected to Congress come November.  It’s not clear yet whether his opponent will be Democrat Ellen Corbett For Congress or Republican Hugh Bussell.

– It looks like the battle for Assembly District 16 (tri-valley) will be between Republican Catharine Baker and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, a Democrat, come November.  But I’m not calling it just yet because Steve Glazer was ahead of Sbranti for a while last night, and it’s hard to know how many ballots are left to count or how these will break.

– Republican candidate Ashley Swearengin heads to November in the Controller’s race. No way of knowing yet whether she’ll be facing Republican David Evans or Democrats John Perez or Betty Yee.

-Incumbent State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a Democrat, didn’t reach the 50% of the vote he needed to avoid a November runoff.  His likely opponent will be Democrat Marshall Tuck, in what would be the only Democrat vs. Democrat race at the state level.  Republican Lydia Gutiérrez may still catch up when all votes are counted, however.

May 312014

Mary HayashiWho would have guessed? Mary Hayashi apparently has the hots for Bob Wieckowski, who is running against her for California Senate.  And Mary, a Battlestar Galactica fan, is not shy about letting him know her amorous intent: she’s set up a website,, to pursue him.

I have to say I’m disappointed. Mary is a married woman, and her husband, Dennis Hayashi, is a sweetheart.  I think she should give up on Bob and instead.

May 132014

Video release of California Senate candidate’s shoplifting raises questions about ethics and privacy

Note: This article has been updated since it was first published.


The woman absently browsing through the racks of clothing that afternoon at Neiman Marcus looked haggard. Her dyed hair appeared uncombed and unwashed, her usually perfectly made-up face was bare and she was wearing a less-than-flattering jogging suit. As she shopped, she was encumbered by a large purse, a shopping bag from Nordstrom’s and another from Neiman Marcus. Her movements between the racks seemed random. Once in a while, she’d select a piece of clothing or two and hand them over to a saleswoman to take to the dressing room. Sometimes she would look at her phone. To the casual observer, she looked like a tired housewife trying to kill time. None of the other shoppers that afternoon seemed to have paid her any attention.

Assemblymember Mary Hayashi, however, had caught the eye of the security team at Neiman Marcus. A dress had disappeared the previous week after a woman matching her description tried it on. For an hour, the store’s high definition cameras followed Mary’s every move, zooming in on her face, bags and even the screen of her phone. Meanwhile, loss prevention agents in white t-shirts followed her discreetly on the floor.

leavingIt was one of the loss prevention agents who watched Mary through the slats of her dressing room door, installed backwards for such purpose, and allegedly observed her dropping a pair of leather pants, a leather skirt and a white shirt into one of her shopping bags. The cameras did record Mary later, at the counter, purchasing a gold shirt and a pair of red pants, while returning some items of clothing she retrieved from her Neiman Marcus bag, for which she had a receipt. Mary chatted with the saleswoman, glanced at her phone and just lingered while waiting for her purchase to be rang up and packaged. If she was distracted, it wasn’t by a phone call.

marysupplyWe see* Mary making her way out of Neiman Marcus with her three shopping bags on tow. We see* her being stopped just outside the store, and brought back inside to have her bags searched. She does not dispute that she had not paid for the leather pants, skirt and shirt that the loss prevention agents found inside one of her bags, with a total value of $2445. She pled no contest to shoplifting, an offense which has the intent to steal as one of its key elements (i.e. you cannot shoplift without meaning to). She has, however, consistently claimed she did not intend to shoplift.


Like many other observers of local politics, I was titillated when news broke of Mary Hayashi’s shoplifting arrest. I had supported Mary when she first ran for Assembly, and I was a novice about local politics, but had grown disenchanted by her “pay to play” approach to politics. There was something deliciously ironic about her being caught stealing at a high-priced department store.

As I knew very little about shoplifting, I decided to school myself on the subject before starting to thrown any stones. Fortunately, there are plenty of books, websites, studies and law cases on the topic. I learned, for instance, that “it was Neiman Marcus policy not to stop a suspected shoplifter unless a loss prevention officer actually observes the suspect removing the item in question from the rack and continuous surveillance is maintained,” so that any evidence against Mary Hayashi was likely to be rock solid. But I also learned that shoplifting is a psychological disorder which afflicts as many as 10% of Americans. While a tiny percentage of shoplifters do so for profit, the vast majority do it to fulfill psychological needs, to fill an emptiness inside or get a high from getting away with the theft. About a third of shoplifters report having been diagnosed with depression. Shoplifting can quickly become addictive, specially as the chances of getting caught are low: shoplifters report being caught about once for every 48 times they steal. Treatment, meanwhile, is very difficult, though a drug used to treat alcoholism shows promise.

Before becoming a member of the California Assembly, Mary Hayashi was a mental health advocate for Asian women. She wrote in her book Far from Home how her passion came from her experience with her own sister’s suicide. It seemed likely that Mary’s shoplifting was based on emotional rather than (at least exclusively) economic needs. Her arrest was a perfect opportunity for Mary to confront her own mental health issues, and in doing so, bring attention to a disorder that afflicts many people from all sorts of lives.

Instead, Mary coped out. Though she plead no contest, basically admitting her guilt, she continued making excuses, claiming she was distracted and later insinuating that a benign tumor she was suffering from, might have played a role in her actions. The latter may actually be believable. Studies have shown that damage to some areas of the brain can interfere with decision making processes, including kleptomania. Mary did not press the issue, however, as admitting faulty decision-making abilities can be a problem for a politician who wants to remain viable. Still, her inability or unwillingness to come clean about her mental health issues – issues to which she had previously dedicated her life -, seem contemptible to me.


Mary Hayashi, now, is running for state Senate. She has a very large campaign chest and no scruples. Perhaps that, too, is a consequence of her brain tumor. She has attacked her opponent mercilessly, suggesting that he supports rapists because he voted against an early version of a bill that took away judicial discretion on division of assets after a divorce. She should not be in Sacramento. That is half of the story.

The other half is the issuagente of privacy, surveillance cameras and see-through dressing room doors. The latter matter is, perhaps, the most blatantly obnoxious. Many people are modest and don’t want to be seen naked by others – be they store employees or anyone else walking by. That’s why dressing rooms exists in the first place. While in this case the loss prevention agent actually caught Mary hiding store merchandise, it’s likely that in many cases they observe completely innocent people in their underwear. I think that at the very least consumers should be informed that they can be seen while changing with the doors closed.

zoominThe surveillance issue is also troubling. Mary was in a store and she probably knew that there were cameras. I doubt, however, that most consumers realize just how intrusive these cameras can be. Shoppers are unlikely to be aware that a camera mounted on the other side of the room can zoom on their faces so precisely that someone could read their lips and eavesdrop into private conversations. They are probably not aware that the cameras can also zoom onto the screens of any papers or screens they have with them, potentially recording private information. A shopper who sees a person looking at what they are holding or studying their mouth movements, would probably walk away; cameras do so undetected.

More and more municipalities are putting cameras like these on public spaces, again without notifying citizens of how much information about their every day lives they can record. Surely sometimes – like in this case – they are useful (though it’s telling that none of the actual elements of the crime of shoplifting were recorded), but it is important for the public and lawmakers to also be aware of the negative uses of surveillance technologies.

Mary Hayashi’s arrest did not lead to the conversation on mental illness I wanted. I hope that the release of the video of her shoplifting incident will lead to a public discussion on the needs of surveillance versus privacy.

Full Shoplifting Trip Video

Mary Leaves the Stores and Gets Arrested

Some Stills from the Video:


* An earlier version of this article said that we didn’t see Mary after she left the counter. That’s because I had only watched one of the two surveillance videos provided by the SFPD. The second video shows her exiting the store, being detained and being brought back into the store.  Stills from the surveillance video have also been added.

Feb 272014
Sen. Leland Yee

Sen. Leland Yee

I got a call from State Senator Leland Yee’s campaign. He’s running for Secretary of State and seeking the Democratic endorsement along with Senator Alex Padilla and Derek Cressman.

Yee’s campaign told me that Speaker John Perez* had asked Democrats to not endorse on that race, so as to not create unnecessary divisions within the party. You’d think that if Perez didn’t want divisions he’d withdraw from the race for Controller against the better qualified Betty Yee. Anyway, Yee wants me to vote “no endorsement”.  I bet he does – he’s probably afraid the endorsement will go to Padilla.

Derek Cressman

Derek Cressman

I told the person who called me that I was planning to vote for Cressman. “Who,?” she asked. Apparently they had no idea than someone other than Padilla was running for the endorsement.  Strange, as Yee actually spoke at the Alameda County Democratic Party Unity Dinner alongside Padilla and Cressman (watch the video).

I’m sorry, but if someone who is running for Secretary of State cannot keep track of the candidates in his own race, I can’t imagine he’ll be able to keep track of all the state candidates and all state measures. Yee may be a nice guy, but he needs to bring more feng shui to his life.

Sen Alex Padilla

Sen Alex Padilla

Padilla, of course, had a lobbyst illegally throw him a fundraiser and has refused to return the ill-gotten contributions.  He has and was recently endorsed by the United Farm Workers. The latter might not sound like a bad thing, until you realize that the UFW also endorsed Mary Hayashi, she of the sticky fingers and lust for leather leggings. Padilla’s biggest claim to fame, however, is that he wants to pass a law allowing for the warrantless use of drones by law enforcement.

So Derek Cressman it is. The guy actually cares about transparency and accountability in government. Imagine that.

Apparently I misunderstood the campaign helper who called me. It wasn’t Speaker John Perez, but Party Chairman John Burton who asked candidates for statewide office to not seek the party’s endorsement.  Leland Yee must be confident that he won’t get it, so he’s heeding the request. Padilla continues to ask for it.  I’m still voting for Cressman.