Imagine you are a lowly candidate for the Richmond City Council. You are cobbling together those $50 and $100 donations, trying to get enough to send out a few mailers and buy some yard signs. On a good day, you might even get a check for $2,500, which is Richmond’s contribution limit for candidate committees.
Then on August 20, 2014, you wake up to find out that you have won the lottery! You have won the super jackpot in Vegas!
This is not a fairy tale. This is what happened to three City Council candidates today. A new mailer paid for by Chevron revealed that Donna Powers, Al Martinez and Charles Ramsey will be the beneficiaries of the $1.6 million that California’s largest corporation will be flooding into the Richmond election. The fine print reads: “Paid for by Moving Forward with Nat Bates for mayor, Donna Powers, Charles Ramsey and Al Martinez for City Council 2014 with major Funding by Moving Forward, A coalition of labor unions, small business, public safety and firefighters associations, with major funding by Chevron.” As we have already seen Chevron is not the “major” funder; it is the sole funder.
Not all of these candidates need Chevron’s money. Charles Ramsey, for example, has already independently raised $100,000, and Chevron’s anointment came as a complete surprise to him.
This is both a blessing and a curse for these candidates. The blessing is that their fundraising challenges are over. All they have to do now is avoid a scandal and not get caught picking their nose on a televised candidate’s forum. In the next two months their names will become household words, and their visages will peer down from a hundred billboards promising to bring jobs, love and peace to our sometimes challenged community. An army of paid canvassers and phone bankers will ring the doorbells and phones of every Richmond voter to make sure the voters turn out to support them.
The curse is that they will also become, for the next two months, the “Chevron candidates,” a moniker that impresses some and scares the hell out of others. They also have to bear whatever consequences the association with Nat Bates carries, who has consistently voted against the interests of our residents. It is no surprise that Nat’s supporters are big business, Chevron, special interests and real estate speculators. Nat voted against the will of the people to build a casino at Point Molate, and he says Richmond has too many parks and doesn’t need bike lanes. He voted against the General Plan 2030, and he opposed Richmond joining Marin Clean Energy, a move that has saved Richmond ratepayers $1.8 million in electricity costs this year alone.
The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “He [Bates] shouldn’t be elected mayor. He can’t be mayor.”
Only in Richmond.