Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Category: Women in Politics

A Women’s Safety Panel

Mario Woods Protesters attend SF Police Commission meeting chaired by DA candidate Suzy Loftus
Emond Juicye (middle) activist, and Minister Keith Muhammad listen to Suzy Loftus, President of the San Francisco Police Commission at the beginning of the SF Police Commission meeting held at the Salvation Army Kroc Center January 20, 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo by Emma Marie Chiang

I just got triggered again. A Women’s Safety Panel?

It’s a fundraising event organized by supporters of San Francisco DA candidate Suzy Loftus. Loftus is the candidate of choice for disgraced SF police chief Greg Suhr, and SF Mayor London Breed. The San Francisco Democratic Party has also endorsed Loftus. Loftus is by definition “the establishment choice.”

So, it’s not surprising that her supporters have invoked the victim safety song to elevate her candidacy. It’s a tried and true tactic for white women running for office. In her story about Tiffany Caban’s race, Melissa Gira Grant writes in The New Republic, “Law-and-order feminists have long used the idea of professional white women’s safety and reputation against young women activists of color.” White women “have embraced and promulgated a feminism that sees the police and prosecutors as allies in women’s empowerment.”

It worked in New York. There, Melinda Katz, a career politician who favors increased police surveillance and the death penalty with no courtroom experience won the race for Queens DA.

“A Women’s Safety Panel” vs. Criminal Justice Reform

We saw the same traditional campaign of fear and racism here in Alameda County in 2018.

In the race for Alameda County DA, domestic violence survivors attacked and defamed me as “a threat” to their safety. DV survivors rallied in front of incumbent DA Nancy O’Malley‘s office denouncing my candidacy. Of course O’Malley’s staff and supporters attended the rally, and the local media covered it. Never mind that I am personally a DV survivor. Or that I was arrested for defending myself in my own home from an abusive partner, prosecuted by the DA’s office and fortunately acquitted by a jury at trial.

Forget that I co-founded the Bay Area Defense Committee for Battered Women in 1979, while still in law school. We advocated in the courts for DV survivors, particularly those prosecuted in Alameda County. My understanding of and commitment to self-defense for battered women was developed years before my own arrest for defending myself.

Never mind that I have MY receipts for thousands of dollars that I donated to the non-profit Family Violence Law Center before it was subsumed into the Alameda County District Attorneys’ office.

Too often, facts don’t matter in politics. Too often, what matters is who you know and how long have you been in the game. In SF, Suzy Loftus has been a fixture in the SF police community for decades. She is a protege of Sen. Kamala Harris and a proud member of Kamala’s “squad.”

Kamala's "squad" - Suzy Loftus Twitter Post of Loftus, Buffy Wicks, Debbie Mesloh, Kamala Harris and a friend
Buffy Wicks, Debbie Mesloh, Kamala Harris, Suzy Loftus and friend
Credit: Suzy Loftus on Twitter Image

The Return of Kamala

Loftus worked for Harris in SF and then in Sacramento at the Department of Justice. Loftus is a former deputy DA who spent years supporting SF’s unique contribution to mass incarceration. The SF DA’s racial disparity study found that between 2008 and 2014, Blacks were only 6% of the population, but were 41% of those arrested, 43% of those booked into jail, 38% of cases filed by the DA and 39% of new convictions.

Loftus was with Harris in 2009 when the DA’s office withheld information about a corrupt police technician. A SF judge condemned the office’s indifference to “the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.” And, when Harris unsuccessfully retaliated against the judge, Loftus was a leader on her team.

Loftus was also with Harris while Harris was Attorney General. As AG, Harris supported the death penalty while refusing to support Proposition 47, or statewide standards for police body-cameras or investigations of police for shooting civilians or sexual exploitation of minors.

Loftus was there when Harris refused to meet with Gwen Woods.

Loftus clearly enjoyed personal success as Kamala’s protege. In this election, however, Loftus claims a commitment “to reform our broken criminal justice system.” Her campaign started, however, as a “tough on crime” challenge to incumbent DA George Gascon. Gascon is the only DA in California to endorse Proposition 47 and advocate openly for criminal justice reform.

Black Women & Greg Suhr

Greg Suhr’s support for Loftus is not surprising at all. Loftus is the former Chair of the SF Police Commission and currently works for the SF Sheriff. She supported Suhr in the storm created by the exposure of racist and homophobic texts by SFPD officers in 2015. Her new-found commitment to criminal justice reform did not lead her to support the 17-day hunger strike by the Frisco 5 calling for Suhr’s removal in the wake of Mario Woods’ murder.

Suzy Loftus, Mayor Ed Lee and SFPD Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin announce resignation of Greg Suhr
Mayor Ed Lee (middle) announces the resignation of SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr on May 19, following the fatal shooting of Jessica Williams, by SFPD earlier that morning, as Police Commissioner Suzy Loftus (left) and SFPD Deputy Chief Toney Chaplin (right) stand by the mayor’s side during a press conference in City Hall.
Photo: Joel Angel Juárez

When Mayor Ed Lee was forced to let Suhr resign after SFPD shot and killed Jessica Williams, an unarmed Black woman, Loftus was there. It was the third fatal shooting by SFPD of a person of color in 6 months, including Jessica Williams, Luis Gongora and Mario Woods. According to Matier & Ross, the meeting to arrange Suhr’s resignation and the appointment of a new interim Chief, ended with a round of hugs and handshakes, and did not include the two Black female SF Supervisors.

Dog Whistle for Racism

Not surprisingly, progressive Black activists in SF are not supporting Suzy Loftus for DA.

“If Suhr is a supporter of yours and you’re running for District Attorney, it shows me you’re about prosecuting black and brown folks and any of the corruption going on in the department,” said Equipto, a San Francisco rapper and activist and one of the Frisco 5 hunger strikers.

Let’s be clear: “a women’s safety panel” is a dog whistle for racism. It’s a call to white supremacy, and particularly white women, to support the continued over-incarceration and criminalization of Black and Brown people. Regrettably, some Black women have unknowingly bought into that narrative, apparently thinking that only the white woman can save us. What my sisters need to understand, however, is that resistance to sexual harassment and violence is deeply rooted in the intersectional oppression and resistance of Black women.” 

Many “woke folks,” like myself, have endorsed Chesa Boudin for SF DA. Chesa has a history of fighting for bail reform, for the rights of immigrants and restorative justice for victims. He has a clear commitment to address the grossly unjust racial disparities in San Francisco. Chesa is the only one who personally knows the impact of the criminal injustice system on everyday people.

Ballots drop in SF for this election in less than 2 weeks. To help elect Chesa Boudin in this critical race for justice, please make a contribution here!

At the end of the day, let’s pray that SF is really as progressive as some people think it is!

Pelosi v. Impeachment

Trump protesters call for his impeachment
Trumps Birthday Protest in front of the Trump International Tower, June 14, 2019
(Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

Some folks say that Rep. Nancy Pelosi has become Donald Trump’s biggest ally. Why? She continues to oppose efforts to impeach Trump. It’s Pelosi v. Impeachment.

I do believe that the majority of people in this country are done with Trump. I love the 2020 campaign slogan “any functioning adult.” Donald Trump is clearly not a well functioning adult. When he refers to countries as “sh-thole countries” or proposes that we “buy” another country, the man has proven that “his elevator simply does not go all the way to the top.”

Beyond his completely idiotic statements, however, we also know that he is quite capable of scheming and scamming just about anyone. His “stock in trade” is deception and deflection. Having seen this demonstrated time and time again, one wonders why any responsible legislator would not feel compelled to protect the country. Until we get to November 2020, more than a year away, the only way out for us is impeachment.

Who’s Holding It Up?

Nancy Pelosi rejects impeachment
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi opposes impeachment –  Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi is blocking the path to impeachment. Although the majority of House Democrats favor impeachment, Pelosi is holding the gate firmly closed. Her rationale seems increasingly strained and incredible. She doesn’t want the country to focus too much on Trump. But the fact is, he keeps the focus on his outrageous comments and conduct.

It has been weeks since Robert Mueller confirmed to lawmakers that Trump’s 2016 campaign welcomed Russian assistance and that President Trump repeatedly attempted to undermine the investigation into Russia’s hacking and propaganda operation. Trump’s outrageous attacks on Hon. Elijah Cummings and the City of Baltimore are also fading fast in our rear-view mirrors. The country is incredibly resilient in the face of Trump’s demagoguery. The danger is that we become so immune to his attacks on democratic institutions that he is able to dismantle them without any consequence. Trump’s celebrity fascism is real!

That is the point of impeachment. Most people agree there must be consequences for inciting racist attacks and obstructing the law. Treason is defined by serving a foreign power after you are elected by the people in your own country. And let us be clear – the people elected Trump. Whether you stayed home because you hated Hillary, or you actually cast a vote for Trump. Elections matter – votes matter.

Pelosi v. Impeachment

Nancy Pelosi needs to recognize that a vote for impeachment matters. That standing up for the Constitution matters. Standing up for the rule of law matters. Indeed, standing up against a bully has power all by itself. Calling out America’s racism certainly resonates with those of us who are his targets. Letting the world know that there are still some people of good will and reason in charge of at least some small part of the U.S. government is a uniquely valuable gesture.

I heard Pelosi is currently travelling the world to reassure our allies that we have not all lost it. I say Pelosi needs to come home and make that point plain by supporting the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.

Pelosi v. The People

Nancy Pelosi’s Purple Manolo heels, Pride Day SF 2019.
Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

OMG, I love those shoes. Too bad, Nancy Pelosi stepped in so much SH-T wearing these beautiful purple shoes. These are the shoes Pelosi was wearing the day she trashed the Squad in an interview with NY Times Reporter, Maureen Dowd.

On July 6, 2019, Pelosi dissed the Squad big time. According to Pelosi, “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

What triggered Pelosi was the Squad’s courageous opposition to a Senate bill to fund Trump’s concentration camps. Pelosi rejected the Squad’s call for stronger protections for migrant children in the overcrowded border shelters and passed the bill. She clearly capitulated to Trump and Mitch McConnell. No doubt, she was embarrassed by the national news coverage of “her striking defeat” and the Squad’s public exposure of the conditions in the camps.

I think the story that really pissed Pelosi off, though, was the Huff Post article: “What The Hell is Nancy Pelosi Doing?”

The Tip of the Iceberg

Unfortunately, Nancy’s nasty step in those awesome purple shoes was not the first attack on the Squad. It started in January with Ilhan Omar and the Congressional attempts to censure her. Then, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership aligned with Trump to suppress any suggestion that Israel’s racist oppression of the Palestinian people might become part of the conversation in Washington. As VOX pointed out, Omar’s defenders “argued that she [was] being attacked in bad faith as a Muslim woman of color who dares to criticize Israel.” We all know it is absolute heresy in Washington to criticize Israel. We all know that Israel is “the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” Right? Rep. Omar apparently did not get the memo.

It appears that the Democrats are intent on taking down each member of the Squad, including Omar, AOC, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. The party machine is highly upset that AOC took out Rep. Joe Crowley. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is still likely embarrassed that it supported the white man that Ayanna Pressley defeated last summer. He was another long-serving Democratic incumbent who the people booted out. Pressley’s comment about “black faces that don’t want to be a black voice” probably hit a little too close to home for some long-serving CBC members.

Let’s face it – these are some badass sisters who are all about kicking a** and taking names. These upstart youngsters are clearly making more positive news than Pelosi has in decades. And, they are rallying the Democratic base in ways that she never has. This is not how Washington is supposed to work. Hence the backlash.

Pelosi v. The People

What is really disturbing, however, about Pelosi’s attacks are that she had to know she was in essence “colluding” with Trump. He is rabidly xenophobic, racist and sexist. Pelosi opened the door for Trump to attack the Squad. She facilitated it in February and had to know it would be repeated in July. Every member of the Squad has received death threats. Pelosi’s rebuke of Trump in more recent days does little to assuage the perception that Pelosi is “in bed” with the Republicans.

Notably, the sisters in the Squad were not the only ones that called out the Dems’ complicity with Trump. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls the measure “a betrayal of our American values.” It warned Pelosi that “[W]hat happened today is unacceptable, and we will not forget this betrayal.” The 90-member Congressional Progressive Caucus also issued a scatching rebuke of Pelosi’s work to pass the bill. So, it turns out that Pelosi’s attempt to isolate the Squad as outliers is neither appropriate nor accurate.

The Wrong Answer

“If the left doesn’t think I’m left enough, so be it, she said, breezily” to Maureen Dowd.  Well, Ms. Pelosi, that’s the wrong answer. Right now, the Democratic Party is in crisis because the old guard is too dismissive of bold progressives like the Squad. Like our own Barbara Lee.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem
Jeffries and Barbara Lee at a press conference on April 28, 2017.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

We have not forgotten that Rep. Barbara Lee should have been the first Black woman to hold a leadership position as the Chair of the Democratic Caucus. Instead, Congressional Democrats selected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, an advocate for charter schools and admirer of Ronald Reagan. Pelosi’s decision to create a new position for Lee does not make it any less insulting to Black women that we are not considered “good enuf” to lead.

Pelosi’s actions to prevent Trump’s impeachment this year brought to mind Abraham Lincoln. Historians concede that Lincoln’s main goal was not to free the slaves but to maintain the union at all costs. In fact, Lincoln was prepared to protect slavery in order to maintain the nation. It seems that Pelosi is willing to accept violations of our moral and/or constitutional standards to maintain unity in Congress at all costs. Like Lincoln, I imagine that her efforts will fail.

Is Pelosi The Next Joe Crowley?

Congressional Democrats are feeling very threatened, for good reason. In most places, Democratic incumbents are selected by the party machine, and not by the people. As I noted last year, their “elections do not rest on the power of the people – their elections are assured by the power of incumbency.” Hence, Pelosi v. The People is a real statement as the progressive movement reflects the sentiments of local activists not aligned with the Democratic Party.

Here, at home, Pelosi faces an authentic challenger in Shahid Buttar. He is an immigrant of Pakistani descent and a Stanford-educated lawyer. Shahid is an activist for LGBTQ rights, sane environmental policies, immigrant rights, campaign reform and the peace and Occupy movements. His well-written Op-Ed piece on why Trump should be impeached has been widely publicized.

This is his second challenge to Pelosi’s seat. Last time, he started late, came from nowhere and got less than 10% of the vote. This time, if the Republicans run a candidate, he might survive the primary.

Pelosi currently appears invincible in her SF District. If she continues to step in sh-t, that could change. Even if she does it in those beautiful purple (and very expensive) shoes. STAY WOKE!

Only 16 Votes

Credit: Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

Tiffany Caban’s Election – Part 1

Tiffany Caban is losing her election to Queens District Attorney by only 16 votes. Only 16 votes could decide the race. The criminal justice system in Queens impacts 2.4 million people. The race highlights the dangers of “provisional ballots” and the power of absentee ballots.

Election officials initially tossed out an estimated 2,500 provisional ballots. Some people registered too late to vote in the primary election. Others moved and did not re-register in time. Some voters forgot to sign and swear they were registered Democrats. On the flip side, usually the most reliable and conservative voters cast absentee ballots. Absentee voters vote early and those votes usually decide the race. That conventional wisdom may prove true in Queens.

What’s At Stake in Queens

Tiffany Caban’s race for District Attorney has captured the attention of the nation. Her story, in case you missed it, is an original American story. She’s young, a mere 31 years old, of Puerto Rican descent, a former Public Defender and the first in her family to graduate from college. Bringing all of her real life and world experience, she put together a broad coalition of progressives, formerly incarcerated folks, sex workers and undocumented immigrants.

New York based Working Families Party, Real Justice PAC, Color of Change, Our Revolution and Democrats for Socialist America (DSA) also supported Tiffany. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krashner, Singer John Legend, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former NY gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and the New York Times newspaper all endorsed Tiffany.

Only 1 major labor union endorsed Tiffany Caban.

According to the New York Times, the Queens District Attorney’s office is woefully out of step with the community it serves. The office features high racial disparities in prosecutions and routine violations of the right to counsel. It has no dedicated unit to address wrongful convictions and no oversight of abusive landlords.

Who is Melinda Katz?

Melinda Katz, Tiffany’s opponent, is an established player in New York politics. Melinda has been the Queens Borough President for 6 years. She will be termed out when her term expires in 2021. She is running for her 6th elected office in 25 years. In her long political career she has not shown any interest in criminal justice reform. She has not led any challenges to mass incarceration in New York.

In 1995, Melinda voted as a member of the New York State Assembly to reinstate the death penalty. On the City Council, she voted to increase penalties for low-level offenses and create a new category of crime (gang recruitment). She also favors increased police surveillance in city schools. Every elected member of Congress from New York except one, and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed Melinda.

Not surprising, big labor unions like SEIU, Teamsters, Firefighters and the building trades all support Melinda Katz. Melinda has no courtroom experience even though she is a lawyer. Her last real gig was as a lobbyist for real estate clients at Greenberg Taurig. The firm has a scandalous history, including a$7.6 million fine in 2006 levied by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to settle allegations that the firm helped cover up a bank’s financial misconduct. Greenberg is also Rudy Giuliani, former NY mayor and current Trump surrogate’s old law firm.

The Democratic Party Favorite

Here’s how one local writer described Melinda’s ties to the Queens Democratic Party:

Katz has also cemented her ties to the Queens Democratic Party, which is often criticized as one of the last bastions of calcified political power in the city. The Party protects and promotes its own and, in any race, brings to bear a large cadre of local, state, and national elected officials that originated from its ranks or owe it some allegiance, as well as the allies of those officials, other local party officials like members of the state committee, political club members, and others.

The Queens Democratic Party was previously headed by Congressional representative-turned-lobbyist Joe Crowley, who lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and has been fundraising for Katz.”

According to one commentator, Melinda Katz ran on the traditional campaign of fear and racism. As she notes, “Law-and-order feminists have long used the idea of professional white women’s safety and reputation against young women activists of color.” Yet, she’s ahead by only 16 votes.

The Wrong Side of History

In August 2018, Shaun King lamented the absence of the Democratic Party in the fight for criminal justice reform. He asked “Does the Democratic Party really care about black people or do they just want our votes?”

The reality, reflected in the Queens DA race, is that the Democratic Party is very much present. On the wrong side of history. This was obvious in the 2018 Alameda County District Attorney race. According to the local Democratic Party Chair, Robin Torello, incumbent DA Nancy O’Malley “fights for our Democratic values of justice, equality and civil rights everyday.”

Credit: Pamela Price for District Attorney 2018

Every one of O’Malley’s answers are inconsistent with the California Democratic Party platform. Nonetheless, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee, the Sierra Club and Senator Kamala Harris all endorsed O’Malley. After that, less than 100 days after winning re-election with financial and logistical support from the Democratic party machine, O’Malley endorsed the anti-choice Republican candidate for State Assembly over a Democrat. Fortunately, the Republican lost her seat.

Only 16 Votes

I pray that Tiffany Caban can get at least 17 more votes. Still, the hard lesson for progressives is that we have to “flip” the party. We have a chance to do just that in Alameda County in March 2020. If you are not a registered Democrat, you must re-register and do it early.

One estimate is that a million independent voters (registered as “no party preference”) in California risk not being able to vote for president or local Democratic party representatives in the March primary. In other words, independents who want to change the status quo in March 2020 best re-register to vote as a Democrat. You can change it back later.

In California, the drop dead date to re-register to vote by mail in the primary is January 15, 2020. So, you can only vote by mail for local Democratic party officials if you are a registered Democrat by January 15, 2020. If you want to vote in person, the final date to re-register to get a Democratic ballot is February 17, 2020.

Across the country, we see this is where “the petal meets the metal.” We really need everyone to “#DEM-ENTER” ASAP.

If you can please help Tiffany pay for the recount in the Queens DA race, go to her webpage at cabanforqueens.com and make a contribution. Tiffany is a corporate-free candidate.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race Ends

The 2019 CDP Chair race ended last Saturday. The CDP did not elect Kimberly Ellis to be the first Black woman to lead the party. The CDP delegates voted overwhelmingly to elect Rusty Hicks. What are we to make of this conclusion?

California or Calabama?

Among Black folks, California has earned the nickname “Calabama.” It means that far too often, Black people in California face the same deep racism they face in the South, in places like Alabama. As I watched the racial divide exposed in San Francisco last weekend, I was reminded of the struggle that Fannie Lou Hamer fought against the Democratic Party in 1964.

In 1964, Hamer helped co-found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The regional Democratic party was racist and all-white. Hamer traveled with her delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention to stand as the official delegation from the state of Mississippi. Her plea to be recognized by the DNC went viral within a few days. It fell on deaf ears.

The DNC did not officially recognize the MFDP until the 1968 Convention.

At the CDP convention in San Francisco, I attended the Black Women’s Meet-up from 5-7. I don’t recall seeing any white women there. Later, from 10-12, I attended the New Girls Network reception. I counted less than 2 handfuls of Black women. I was greatly disturbed by how comfortable most of the white women appeared to be with the obvious absence of Black women. I’m not even sure that KE was invited to speak there.

Clearly, if every woman delegate had voted for KE, she would have easily won. But clearly, that did not happen. Full consideration of the culture of sexual misconduct and racial discrimination inside the CDP took a back seat to another agenda. That agenda was to preserve the privilege of white men in charge of the party. And it clearly appears that too many white women were ok with that. Much as they voted overwhelmingly for Roy Moore in Alabama despite the evidence that he molested teenage girls. What should have been a referendum on the white male patriarchy in charge of the CDP was weaponized against the Black male Chair candidate and otherwise ignored.

Who is Rusty Hicks?

Rusty Hicks seems like a nice fellow. But as I noted before the election, Rusty Hicks comes out of the same cesspool of sexism and white privilege that birthed Eric Bauman. Rusty is a longtime LA labor leader who worked closely with Bauman for the last 14 years. When Eric resigned in disgrace, it seems that his LA supporters came up with a replacement.

So now, Rusty Hicks is the face of the CDP. In his endorsement of KE, Jon Katz, the President of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, said “After extensive conversations with Mr. Hicks, I worry that his vision of the party would serve the protection of our elected officials above the need to push those elected officials to take bold stances and enact legislation that the grassroots of the party put them there to do.” 

So How Did Rusty Win?

How Rusty won an election that seemed like it was KE’s to lose will be debated for at least the next two years. We know that the elected officials went all out in January to reclaim the ADEM seats. Some believe the defeat of progressive ADEM slates by hand-chosen surrogates for the electeds in January cost KE the election.

For the first time in recent memory, the CDP Labor Caucus endorsed a candidate for Chair – Rusty. The motion to endorse created a huge uproar in the Caucus. The Labor Caucus, like many other Rusty supporters, was blind to the implications of its conduct. In rushing to push Rusty into the chair seat, labor crushed the hopes of any woman who believes after 128 years, it is long past time to have a Black woman chairperson. Labor failed to consider that a woman is far better equipped to redeem the party’s reputation from the sexually predatory conduct of Eric Bauman than an Eric Bauman surrogate.

As CDP Chair, Rusty will have to reassure Black people that Black women do matter to the CDP and change the culture of sexual abuse allegedly tolerated by the Party leadership. We will tolerate no less than that. The real question is whether labor or the electeds will support him in that quest as vociferously as they supported him in the Chair race. How they answer that question may well determine whether Democrats defeat Trump in 2020.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race-Part 2

Kimberly Ellis – 2019 CDP Chair Candidate

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on the 2019 California Democratic Party (CDP) Chair Race. For the full background on the 2019 CDP Chair race, check out Part 1 first.

Why Kimberly, Not Kamala?

Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman and the former Executive Director of EMERGE California. She is running for Chair of the California Democratic Party for the second time. Kimberly’s message about redefining what it means to be a Democrat is inspiring, particularly in light of the party’s failures for at least the past two decades.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strident advocate for the leadership of Black women. My favorite hashtag is #BlackWomenLead. Because I am a Black woman who has been on the front lines of the fight for civil rights for more than 40 years, I know how transformative our leadership can be. I supported Kimberly Ellis in 2017 and I support her in 2019.

So, you ask, how can you support Kimberly, but not Kamala?

The answer, unfortunately, is based on Kamala’s record and my own personal experience. In 2017, Kamala Harris did not support Kimberly Ellis. She did not endorse her or vote for her. In 2019, Kamala Harris still has not endorsed Kimberly Ellis. And Kamala controls at least 6 votes in the CDP Chair’s race. The fact that Kimberly Ellis is the only candidate in the race who can actually challenge the CDP’s pervasive culture of sexual misconduct is obvious. Yet, Kamala is standing silently on the sidelines watching the action.

Kamala’s Silence is Complicity

But then, standing by silently is Kamala’s habit and practice. In 2016, when Sen. Holly Mitchell was fighting like a demon to repeal California’s unjust sentence enhancement laws, Kamala stood on the sidelines. That year, Sen. Mitchell sponsored SB966, the 2016 version of the RISE Act. It died in the Legislature. It finally passed in 2018. Kamala did not support the bill.

Sen. Holly Mitchell is the most powerful compassionate inspiring Black woman to grace the California Legislature in decades. For more than a decade, she worked tirelessly with civil and human rights advocates to heal and restore our communities from the devastation caused by our racist and broken criminal justice system. Kamala Harris was silent on most of the groundbreaking criminal justice legislation sponsored by Sen. Mitchell.

In 2015, when Assemblymember Kevin McCarthy introduced AB86, a bill to make California the first state in the nation to have its top law enforcement officer independently investigate deaths in police custody, Kamala actually opposed the legislation. Under the plan, the state attorney general would appoint a special prosecutor to direct an investigation whenever the police kill a civilian. Several other states, including New York, have since adopted this policy.

Gwen Woods & her son, Mario Woods (Credit: Vic Lee, ABC7News)

In 2016, the Black community in San Francisco was incensed about the police killing of Mario Woods. In a series of community meetings, Kamala’s most loyal supporters called upon her to do exactly what AB86 called for – convene an independent investigation of the shooting. Kamala rejected their appeals and stood by silently on the sidelines of the controversy. I shall never forget how shocked I was when I learned that Kamala refused to meet with Mario Woods’ mother.

My Own Disappointments

In August 2016, a coalition of community organizations that I worked with called upon Kamala to convene an independent investigation of the Bay Area police sex trafficking ring. Seven law enforcement agencies were implicated in sex trafficking of a minor. Even when the young woman at the center of the police misconduct was spirited away in the dead of night by the Richmond Police to Florida and promptly incarcerated on felony charges there, Kamala rejected our appeals to get involved. She stood by silently as criminal cases were either never brought or quickly dismissed.

In 2010, I represented a group of 10 women sexually harassed at work. They were all employed at the California Dept. of Corrections. Two of my co-counsel were staunch Kamala supporters. When she became Attorney General (with our help), they thought she would listen to them. She did not. We had our clients write to her directly describing their pain and injuries. We thought she would listen to them. She did not. In fact, she turned their letters over to the lawyers in her office defending the case. Those lawyers used the letters to ridicule our clients.

By 2015, three of the cases had been dismissed and one of our clients had committed suicide. We settled most of the remaining cases in 2015 for almost $2.8 million. The estate of Judy Longo – the woman who committed suicide – received a mere $250,000, largely because Judy was not alive to testify about what happened to her. The lead plaintiff Martha Berndt lost her case at trial. The case was weakened both by the extreme passage of time (13 years) and our assignment to a ridiculously sexist trial judge. Kamala stood by silently as these women suffered years of unnecessary and cruel litigation.

But She’s a Black Woman

In my experience, with one exception, Kamala has not stood with progressive Black women.* In the 2018 race for Oakland Mayor, there were 2 Black women running for the seat. Kamala did not support either one of us. In the 2018 race for Assembly District 15, there were 2 Black women running for the seat. Kamala did not support either one of them.

Kamala’s prominent support for the incumbent DA in the 2018 race for Alameda County District Attorney is perhaps the most shocking. That DA’s record on racially-biased prosecutions is abysmal. I ran for DA in response to the lack of police accountability and racial injustices that have devastated our community for decades. Kamala did not ever respond to my request for a meeting. According to the President of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), a statewide organization of Black women that has always supported Kamala, Kamala did not even return her calls.

The Struggle is Real

In conclusion, my decision to reject Kamala Harris as a candidate for President is based “empirical evidence” and real life experience. Perhaps she will have a last minute change of heart and decide to support Kimberly Ellis in her quest to become the first Black woman CDP Chair. If you support Kamala and believe she should stand with Black women, please reach out to her and let her know that Kimberly Ellis deserves and needs her help. Before the vote on Saturday, June 1st please!

Here’s how you can contact Kamala on Twitter, Messenger, by phone or e-mail:

Twitter: @KamalaHarris
Messenger: @SenatorKamalaHarris
Phone: (415) 981-9369
E-mail: erica@scnstrategies.com

I hope I live to see the first Black woman President. I know that she will be a woman with the courage of her convictions and the compassion of a queen. #BlackWomenLead

*Kamala endorsed Public Defender Genevieve Jones-Wright for San Diego District Attorney in 2018 less than 3 weeks before the June 2018 election.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race-Part 1

Kimberly Ellis, 2019 CDP Chair Candidate

Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman and the former Executive Director of EMERGE California. She is running for Chair of the California Democratic Party for the second time. Kimberly’s message about redefining what it means to be a Democrat is inspiring, particularly in light of the party’s failures for at least the past two decades.

On May 20, 2017, Eric Bauman was elected Chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP). Bauman narrowly defeated Kimberly. The CDP says he won by 62 votes. It really was a contest between “old school” Democrats vs “new school” Democrats. The delegates had a clear choice between (a) someone relatively new to the party and (b) someone who had waited years for “his turn.” I reported on this exciting contest in 2017. I supported Kimberly Ellis.

Bauman was Vice Chair of the CDP for almost 10 years (2009-2017) and Chair of the Los Angeles Democratic Party for 17 years (2000-2017). Not surprisingly, his endorsement by the LA Democratic Party was won with 94% of the vote. Bauman was considered the” consummate party insider.” Bauman resigned his position as CDP Chair in disgrace in late 2018.

Fast forward to 2019

On January 15, 2019, 3 current and former CDP employees sued the CDP and Bauman. They claim there is a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct at the CDP that is “well-known and apparently tolerated” by top officials. They describe a workplace where drinking during the workday and inappropriate sexual conduct and comments were tolerated, and party leaders retaliated against those who reported allegations of harassment. In April 2019, more staffers sued the CDP and Bauman for the same type of conduct.

Bauman’s former assistant at the LA Democratic Party filed the second case. William Floyd says Bauman sexually assaulted him at least three times and groped him on numerous occasions. Floyd says Bauman threatened him, telling him “if you cross me, I will break you.”

The fact that Bauman’s outrageous conduct was “widely known” and tolerated for whatever reason is deeply troubling. Bauman was clearly a sexual predator with “no shame in his game.” He abused his power openly in grotesque ways. He knew he could get away with it. Apparently, no one cared enough about sexual oppression, or felt empowered enough within the party to say or do anything about it until CDP staffer Kate Earley broke the silence.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race

Today, Kimberly Ellis is the front-runner in the CDP Chair race. If elected, Kimberly would be only the fourth female Chairwoman of the CDP in 128 years. She would be one of less than a handful of Black women Chairs of State Democratic parties. Rusty Hicks and Daraka Larimore-Hall, both men from Southern California stepped up to run against her.

In my view, Rusty Hicks comes out of the same cesspool of sexism and white privilege that birthed and fed Eric Bauman. Rusty is a longtime labor leader with the LA County Federation of Labor. There is little doubt that Rusty worked closely with Bauman for the last 14 years. Indeed, in 2017, Rusty supported Eric Bauman. I believe that Rusty had to know about Eric’s outrageous misconduct and said nothing. In too many ways in 2019, Rusty looks like Eric Bauman’s surrogate replacement.

Daraka Larimore Hall (Credit: Paul Wellman)

The other leading contender for CDP Chair is Daraka Larimore-Hall. He was elected as Vice-Chair in 2017 by winning 84% of the votes. The first sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the CDP and Bauman in January, however, names Daraka as a person who tried to dissuade the lead plaintiff from filing her complaint. As a result, Daraka has not been able to overcome the perception that he was complicit in Eric’s misconduct.

So why is Rusty not similarly disqualified? Maybe because Eric is a clean-shaven white man while Daraka is a Black man. In addition, Daraka is a former Democratic Socialist who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016. Therefore, Daraka’s political principles are not popular with the party elite. But, having listened to all 3 candidates, I can say that Rusty Hicks is the least impressive.

The Party Elite Have the Power

Kimberly’s greatest challenge is the power of the party elites. These “electeds” get between 2-6 votes each, depending on the size of their constituency. In addition, if they successfully ran a slate of candidates in the 2019 ADEM elections, they may have as many as 20 votes.

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) has 10 members. They have up to 60 votes. The Caucus has endorsed Kimberly. However, that is no guarantee that its members will vote in accord with the endorsement. At least two CLBC members – Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Steven Bradford – have publicly supported Rusty. For example, in 2017, CLBC members Jones-Sawyer, Bradford, Mike Gipson, Autumn Burke and Chris Holden supported Eric Bauman over Kimberly.

The California Women’s Legislative Caucus has 36 members, including 31 Democrats. That’s a trove of at least 186 potential votes. But not all women support women. In 2017, Senator Nancy Skinner supported Bauman. Senator Kamala Harris did not vote for Kimberly in 2017 and she has not endorsed her in 2019. My commentary on Kamala Harris is in Part 2.

Statewide Constitutional officers like Betty Yee, Fiona Ma and Tony Thurman have all endorsed Rusty. It seems that they are progressive until it comes to supporting the leadership aspirations of a Black woman.

How Can You Help?

Many people outside the CDP question whether they can influence the race. The answer is yes! First, you know someone who knows someone who is a delegate to the CDP Convention. You just need to find that person and urge them to vote for Kimberly.

Second, you can reach out to the key legislators and ask them to vote for Kimberly. Hit them on Twitter. Message them through Facebook. Call their offices. Send a e-mail. Let them know that you are watching. Here’s how to reach the 10 members of the California Legislative Black Caucus:

Shirley Weber
Twitter: @AsmShirleyWeber
Messenger: @ShirleyWeberCaliforniaStateAssembly
Phone: (619) 531-7913

Steven Bradford
Twitter: @StevenBradford
Messenger: @stevenbradford62
Phone: (916) 651-4035 or (310) 412-6120

Sydney Kamlager-Dove
Twitter: @AsmKamlagerDove
Messenger: @AsmKamlagerDove
Phone: 323-291-5441
E-mail: assemblymember.kamlager-dove@asm.ca.gov

Autumn Burke
Twitter: @AsmAutumnBurke
Messenger: @AssemblywomanAutumnRBurke
Phone: (916) 319-2062 or (310) 412-6400

Holly Mitchell
Twitter: @HollyJMitchell
Messenger: Holly4LACounty
Phone: (916) 651-4030 or (213) 745-6656

Reginald Jones-Sawyer
Twitter: @JonesSawyer59
Messenger: @reggiejonessawyersr
Phone: (916) 319-2059

Mike Gipson
Twitter: @AsmMikeGipson
Messenger: @AssemblymemberMikeGipson
Phone: (310) 324-6408 or (916) 319-2064
E-mail: assemblymember.gipson@assembly.ca.gov

Jim Cooper
Twitter: @AsmJimCooper
Messenger: @AsmJimCooper
Phone: (916) 670-7888 or (916) 319-2009

Kevin McCarthy
Twitter: @AsmKevinMcCarthy
Messenger: @ASMKevinMcCarthy
Phone: (916) 319-2007 or (916) 324-4676

Christopher Holden
Twitter: @ChrisHoldenNews
Messenger: @AssemblymemberChrisHolden
Phone: (916) 319-2041

Here’s how to reach the 3 women who represent the Bay Area and will control at least 18 votes at the Convention:

Nancy Skinner
Twitter: @NancySkinnerCA
Messenger: @StateSenatorNancySkinner
Phone: (916) 651-4009 or (510) 286-1333

Buffy Wicks
Twitter: @BuffyWicks
Messenger: @AsmBuffyWicks
Phone: (916) 319-2015 or (510) 286-1400

Rebecca Bauer-Kahn
Twitter: @BauerKahan
Messenger: @RBKCalifornia
Phone: (925) 328-1515

In conclusion, the vote will take place on Saturday June 1st. We will see what the CDP really stands for!

I Hope You Dance

In America, money and race always matter, and usually, they rule the day. And yes, as Sister Stacey  Abrams points out in her phenomenal speech, politics “can be as rotten and rigged as you’ve always believed.”

 

But still, when everything you love is on the line, I hope you dance.

So yes, the race is over. But no, this is also “not a concession speech.”

The High Cost Of Housing Is Killing Us

 

When I announced my candidacy for Mayor of Oakland, I talked about how ‘the high cost of housing is literally killing us.” Today and for the last week, we watch helplessly, knowing that the recommendation to stay indoors – at home- because the very air we breathe is poison, is not an option for 6,000 Oaklanders. Most of them Black and Brown. This is the reality of the painful failures of the Libby Schaaf administration.

I cannot congratulate or celebrate those failures. I will not condone nor accept the “systemic cruelty” of our response to the homelessness crisis documented by the United Nations.

Thank You So Much

For this moment, for Oakland, despite the disappointing outcome, it was worth the fight. So I say thank you to all those who gave their time, money, heart and commitment to this fight. To those who staffed the office, wrote the postcards, dialed the numbers, text the message, walked the cards, and went to church, thank you. Whether you gave $800 or $15, thank you.

To all those, who wore the purple shirt with pride, thank you.

We helped turn out the vote in a historic way. We pushed the vote in June in the race for DA.  For November, we went back to those places where we knew voter turnout was low, and pushed some more. 99,879 ballots were cast in Oakland in June. So far, 164,700 ballots were cast in the Mayor’s race.

We bet on Oakland because Oakland has always been there for me. My mentor, Howard Moore Jr., taught me a long time ago, if you take care of the people, the people will take care of you.

So once again, I can say to my family, friends and supporters near and far, I’m ok. I survived the fight and live to fight another day. And thank you for being “the wind beneath my wings.”

I Hope You Dance

And to all those who stand on the edge of the Arena, not sure if you can make it, I hope you dance. 

“When the funds are low and the debts are high, don’t quit.” Everyone of us has an obligation to “keep the faith” and finish the race.

Our children are watching. A Luta Continua.

The Political Power of Incumbency

The Political Power of Incumbency

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Why is it so difficult to defeat an incumbent politician? Because the incumbent:

(a)  has more money so she can buy a campaign,

(b) is automatically endorsed and supported by the party machine,

(c) is usually endorsed and supported by the mainstream media, and

(d) is usually able to convince people that she will do better in her next term fixing the things she ignored in her last term.

Oakland’s Women In Power

Of the 10 largest cities in California, Oakland has the highest percentage of women serving on the City Council.  Yet, Mayor Libby Schaaf clearly lacks a commitment to maintaining female leadership on the Council. In the 2018 general election, all of Mayor Schaaf’s first rank choices for City Council were men. Schaaf’s consistent vocal attacks on two of the strong women on the Council – Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks – are legendary. With the defeat of Councilwoman Brooks by one of the three Schaaf-backed candidates, there is only one Black woman on the Council.

Fortunately, the defeat of  Mayor Schaaf’s major ally on the Council – Councilmember Abel Guillen – by community-backed challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas maintains the same number of women on the Council.

Desley Brooks Is the Exception to the Rule

Despite Desley Brooks’ defeat in this election, the power of incumbency generally rules the day. In 2016, despite a ballooning housing crisis and horrifying episodic accounts of police misconduct, all five (5) incumbent Councilmembers were re-elected.

Councilmember Larry Reid was first elected to the City Council in 1996. He has held the seat for 21 years.  He has served as the Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission and President of the Joint Powers Authority overseeing the Oakland Coliseum. Under his stewardship, East Oakland is facing an economic crisis fueled by the loss of both the Warriors and the Raiders. Indeed, East Oakland is trapped in a morass of potholes, illegal dumping and economic stagnation. The prolonged construction of the BRT line through the heart of East Oakland has accelerated displacement of longtime residents and destroyed small businesses.

Of course, Reid and District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley both endorsed and supported Mayor Schaaf’s re-election. Why not – look at how much she has done for East Oakland!

Incumbents Are the Rule

Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

In 2018, all of the incumbent Board of Supervisors supported District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s re-election. They helped her in spite of her horrible record of racial bias and unwavering support for police murders and misconduct.

O’Malley was also endorsed and aided by the Alameda County Democratic Party. Yet, her policies, practices and allegiances are clearly against our democratic values.

Look at our political structure in Alameda County.  Most of the Board of Supervisors are long-term incumbents:

Keith Carson    Elected 1992 – 26 years in position

Scott Haggerty Elected 1996 – 22 years in position

Nate Miley  Elected 2000 – 18 years in position

Wilma Chan  Elected 1994 – 2000, 2010 -present – 14 years in position

Richard Valle  Elected 2012 – 6 years in position

Women are the majority in Alameda County but we only have 1 woman on our Board of Supervisors. By comparison, both Contra Costa and San Francisco have a female majority on the County Board of Supervisors.

In Alameda County, as in most places, the power of incumbency “trumps” any commitment to your constituents. It often compels you to support the status quo without regard to the needs of the community. If you are in the boat, you do not want to be the one to rock the boat. So you sit silently by, even when the boat repeatedly crashes against the hard rocks of the shore.

Too many of our elected incumbents sit by silently while lives are lost, families are destroyed and communities are displaced. Because you see, their elections do not rest on the power of the people – their elections are assured by the power of incumbency.

Courage & Compassion

I have learned in my life that “it is always darkest just before the dawn.” Last week was so dark. I sat watching “with fear and trepidation” as the Republicans threatened to end healthcare for 16 million Americans. Even as I supported efforts to stop them, I felt like the freight train was running out of control.

A New Dawn in America

Then, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono stepped up to speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Every time I watch her speech, I am moved to tears. Her courage in sharing her story, including her fears, her family’s struggles, her unique path to the U.S. Senate, all of it. The shining sincerity of her compassion is so beautifully overwhelming, born of her uniquely American experience. Raised as a poor Japanese immigrant, she has never forgotten where she came from.

Her call for compassion, I believe, is what sealed the deal. As we all know, Senator John McCain‘s “no” was the deciding vote, following the tie-making opposition of Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Why is compassion so compelling? Compassion is not simply a human emotion. There is evidence that animals are also quite capable of giving and receiving compassion. We also know that compassion in animals is not limited to animals of their same species. A dog can show kindness to a cat. A mother hen can adopt a lost baby duck. A lion can hug a man who loved him without harming him. It seems that in the natural world, compassion has no bounds.

It seems that we are all capable of giving and receiving compassion. The response to Sen. Hirono’s empassioned plea to vote against repeal of Obamacare suggests that we are all vulnerable to the message of compassion. Sen. Hirono noted that when she was diagnosed with cancer, even Republican senators expressed their concern for her. They showed her kindness and compassion. Sen. Hirono called upon the Republican senators to show Americans the same compassion they had shown her. And it worked.

The Courageous Women Who Defied Trump

We should not overlook the significance of the courage displayed by two other female Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. No. 45 actually threatened the residents of both of their states to retaliate against the Senators. Whereas some Republican senators caved in to pressure from the Trumpster, Senators Collins and Murkowski stood firm and represented their constituents.

Their votes demonstrate that when courageous women are present in positions of power, the conversation changes. But for the courage of Senators Collins and Murkowski, Sen. John McCain would not have had his historic opportunity to say “no.” In voting “no,” Sen. McCain also stood fast to represent the best interests of his constituents in Arizona. For the first time in my life last weekend, I was “proud” to be in Arizona.

Health Care Is A Civil Right

Healthcare in America has been denied and fought for like every other civil right.

Credit The Atlantic

In 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King declared that Of all the inequalities that exist, the injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” Racial disparities in health care have persisted since 1966. A 2016 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that in 2014, 55% of all uninsured persons were people of color. Seventy-one percent ( 71%) of Whites were insured privately and only 21% had Medicaid or public insurance. By comparison, 51% of Blacks had private insurance, and 37% had Medicaid or public insurance. The Kaiser study concludes that “people of color have much to gain from health care reform.”

President Barack Hussein Obama was inspired to make health care his signature piece of legislation. Indeed, arguing for health care reform in 2009, President Obama cited the death of his own mother from cancer and the challenges she faced obtaining insurance because her cancer was deemed a pre-existing condition. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a White woman.

So, we know that cancer makes no preference based on race, religion, age, national origin or political beliefs. “Some may call me a dreamer” but maybe one day, we can make the same statement for compassion: it makes no preference based on race, religion, age, national origin or political beliefs. I am inspired by Sen. Hirono’s compassion and courage in facing her cancer and using it to uplift a nation. And every time I watch the video of her speech, I think that from the darkness of the Republican night, there might just be a new dawn in America. Hopefully “I’m not the only one.”

To learn more about the fight to provide healthcare for all, go to HealthyCalifornia.org or Citizen.org or NationalNursesUnited.org. Also check out Healthy California’s latest video.

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