Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Rob Bonta

The Party Line

Janani Ramachandran, Assembly District 18 Candidate
Janani Ramachandran, 18th Assembly District Candidate

The Party Line

One does not need to look to Ohio to find a split in the Democratic Party. In my very own home district, California Assembly District 18, there is a spirited contest between grassroots progressives and the Democratic Party machine. On the one hand is a young South Asian woman, Janani Ramachandran, a corporate-free candidate, who claims Oakland as her base. On the other hand, Alameda resident Mia Bonta, an Afro-Latina, is riding the wave of popularity and corporate largesse created by her husband, Rob, in his quest to become California Attorney General.

Janani speaks compassionately of “standing in the gap” for immigrants, vulnerable women and children. She is a fierce advocate for tenants’ rights, understands the compelling urgency of criminal justice reform right here in THIS County, and is unapologetically unafraid to stand up for Oakland. Janani has enthusiastically embraced my 10-point platform and endorsed my candidacy for Alameda County District Attorney. Mia Bonta has not been heard from yet, and frankly, I’m not sure where the party line will be drawn in my race yet.

The Alameda County Central Committee’s Party Line

As an elected representative to the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee, however, I am restrained from endorsing Janani. Janani impressed me early on with her positive energy, fighting spirit and the brashness of youth. She brings all that and a good education to bear on her candidacy. Her positions on the Coliseum and Howard Terminal projects and solidarity with the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) align with mine.

Still, “the party line” says that I cannot endorse Janani because our Committee has endorsed Mia. Many delegates like me who actually live in Oakland voted to endorse Janani. But, as the former District Assemblyman, and now Attorney General, Rob Bonta cast a long shadow over the process. Rob personally campaigned for Mia, calling and texting delegates. Rob’s two main surrogates were outright bullies, trying to make sure that Mia got the Democratic Party endorsement. And yes, there was a serious problem with the ballots in the first endorsement vote which resulted in “no endorsement.”

I reached out to both Rob and Mia during the endorsement process. After all, I am Rob’s Woman of the Year for Assembly District 18 for 2017. The only response I got was that I should talk to Mia’s campaign manager at that time. Apparently, they realized that because I am a corporate-free candidate, a member of the California Progressive Caucus and I’ve been a proud Black woman all of my life, my conversation about Mia’s candidacy might feel challenging.

Where I Draw the Line

My dear friend Simona likes to say, “we’re here now.” Ballots have dropped, people are already calling me and asking my opinion, and decisions about whom to support have already been made. As you review your unusually short ballot, you only get 1 of 2 choices. I hope that you had an opportunity to hear both candidates in one of the many candidate forums, away from television ads and slick mailers. I’ve received 3 pretty and large pieces of mail from Mia’s campaign already.

A friend did an analysis of the contributions to Mia’s campaign and the contributions to Janani’s campaign. Mia has raised almost $700,000, mainly from corporations and corporate executives from outside of our district. The gaming industry has donated a lot of money to Mia’s campaign, obviously wanting to impress Rob. He has a long relationship with the gaming industry and holds regulatory power over gaming as Attorney General.

In contrast, Janani’s contributions are all corporate-free and come from much smaller donations. Janani has raised just over $200,000.00 for the special election and $160,000 for the 2022 election.

But as Mason said to Dixon, “this is where I draw the line.” I want someone to represent our beloved Assembly District 18 in Sacramento who will resist the State control of the Oakland Unified School District like it was her own and support our teachers, who will be passionate about intervening in gun violence in our community, who will support meaningful criminal justice reform and not take any contributions from police unions. Ideally, our representative will not be beholden to people who show open disdain for Oakland, and her tenure will not forever be tied to the power of one man – her husband.

What’s On the Line

This is a special election which means it’s a wild card election. “Money can’t buy you love” in California politics. And especially not in the 18th Assembly District. We are more radical than the people of Richmond who rejected Chevron’s million dollar campaigns to buy the Richmond City Council in 2012 and 2014. Mia Bonta did win Round 1 by 15 points. But, I suspect she will learn that running for office as a Black woman does not usually give you a leg up. According to the 2018 Oakland Equity Indicators report, Black people in Alameda County are 20 times more likely to be incarcerated than White people, and almost 25 times more likely to be incarcerated than Asians or other ethnicities.

What’s on the line, however, is important to note. The California Democratic Party’s policy for state electeds is that once someone becomes an incumbent, the entire party must support that person. Remember, “the party line.” Whomever wins this special election will become an incumbent, entitled to all the privileges of incumbency. They will likely hold the seat for 12 years, until they term out in 2032. Rob Bonta never had a serious challenger after he won in 2012. If Mia Bonta wins, she may not ever have a serious challenger, and a family dynasty from the tiny island of Alameda will represent most of Oakland, all of San Leandro and Alameda, for literally decades. Notably, the local City of Alameda Democratic Club endorsed Janani.

In the end, for me, a critical question is whether we elect a corporate-free candidate, or a candidate primarily financed by casinos, corporations and other elected officials. Grassroots democratic clubs, allies and respected elected officials from across the State have endorsed both candidates. Hopefully, together, we can turn out more than 21% of the voters. If you want to see a real fight in the Democratic Party, don’t go to Ohio. Come to the 18th Assembly District.

The ADEM Elections

AD18 ADEM Elections

The ADEM Elections

A political battle is brewing quietly but fiercely across the State of California. It is scheduled to erupt in Alameda County the last weekend of this month. It is part of the upheaval that started in the Democratic Party in 2016. That year saw an epic battle between Hillary and Bernie. When Bernie lost that battle, political activists across the country known as “Berniecrats” made 1 of 2 choices: leave the Democratic Party or stay and try to reform the Party from inside.

Their choices set the stage for the next battle: the ADEM elections in January 2017. “ADEMS” is short for Assembly District delegates. Inside the Democratic Party, each Assembly District can elect 14 delegates to the State Party. In 2017, the well-organized Berniecrats won – they swept the ADEM elections with slates of progressive candidates across the State.

In 2019 and 2020, the ADEMS elected to the State Party will make two critical choices: (1) who will lead the State Party following the resignation of the disgraced Party Chair; and (2) who will be endorsed for President by the California Democratic Party.

The stakes are high and the battle is intense. In Assembly District 18 (AD18), the incumbent slate of progressives who won in 2016 is facing a stiff challenge organized by Assemblyman Rob Bonta. The “East Bay Unbossed” slate includes 5 members of the original progressive slate that won in 2016 – Rabi’a Keeble, Lisa Lefave, Michael Fortes, Michael Katz-Lacabe and Dan Wood. They have been endorsed by a 6th incumbent member, Gaby Dolphin, the President of the City of Alameda Democratic Club.


East Bay Unbossed includes several new grassroots leaders from Oakland:

Andrea Luna, President of the Toler Heights Neighborhood Association,

Nina Moore, a daughter of the famed Everett & Jones Restaurant and Black Lives Matter activist,

Kiisha Orr, an early childhood education activist,

Royl Roberts, a longtime leader of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center, and

Matt Hummel, recent candidate for Oakland City Council, District 4.


Others new to the East Bay Unbossed slate include Cheri Johansen, a tenants’ rights organizer, leader of Alameda Progressives and the manager of the successful No on K Campaign in Alameda, Lily Kelly, an LGBTQ activist, Austin Tam, a disability rights advocate and Nestor Cuellas, a worker and tenants’ rights activist.

Other notable ADEM candidates not running on either slate include East Oakland rising star, Mya Whitaker (who impressed many in her run for Oakland City Council District 6) and Meredith Orthwein.

Asm. Bonta is challenging the incumbent progressives with his hand-picked slate of candidates, and he is financing their election. The Bonta slate is heavy on electeds. It includes newly-elected Oakland City councilpersons Sheng Thao and Nikki Fortunato Bas as well as newly-elected officials from Alameda. Asm. Bonta already gets to appoint 5 delegates who can vote his wishes in 2019 and 2020 just because he’s an elected official. If the Bonta-financed slate wins, Bonta will have a total of 19 votes to cast in 2019 and 2020 party elections.

I endorse the East Bay UnBossed slate because the Democratic Party is sorely in need of independent leadership and new voices, not simply elected ones. The State Party suffers from the outsized influence of its elected members. The ADEM slots are one of the few places where grassroot leaders with ties to the community can actually influence the party. In my view, ADEMs need to be independent to have that influence.

The AD15 ADEMS election is Saturday, January 26th from 10:30 to 12:30 at the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) Gymnasium, 4727 San Pablo Avenue.

AD18 voters will decide on Sunday, January 27. Elections will be held from noon to 2:45 at College of Alameda – Building F Student Lounge, 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway in Alameda. Doors open at noon. You must be in line by 2:45 pm to be able to vote.

For a complete list of all of the “unbossed” progressive slates across the State, go to adems.vote.

For all those who have been cheering the advancement of progressive candidates across the country, here is another chance to move Alameda County in the right direction. I hope you take it!

Honoring Women In Politics

This week, I am honored to be recognized as the Woman of the Year for Assembly District 18 (AD18)!  AD18 Assemblymember Rob Bonta selected me. As a result, I am joined into a very special “Girl’s Club” of amazing women from all over California. My new Club includes nurses and doctors and teachers and students, unionists and entrepreneurs and many other professions where women are making history. On March 6th, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus held a day-long celebration in Sacramento for all the Women of the Year.

We all stand on the shoulders of powerful sisters who went before us, most notably, the “Shero” of American politics, Shirley Chisholm.

Unbought and Unbossed

Shirley Chisholm was the original “giraffe.”  She was not afraid to stick her neck out. By her courage and commitment to progress, we all advanced. She was the first Black woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress. in 1971, Chisholm was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus. Chisholm is the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States, in the 1972 U.S. presidential election.  She is also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

According to her World Biography, Chisholm became politically active with the Democratic Party in the 1940s.  She quickly developed a reputation as a person who challenged the traditional roles of women, African Americans, and the poor.  After a successful career as a teacher, Chisholm decided to run for the New York State Assembly.  She served in the State Assembly until 1968, when she decided to run for the U.S. Congress.  During the Vietnam War, Chisholm protested the amount of money being spent for the defense budget while social programs suffered.

Chisholm was a strong supporter of women’s rights. Early in her career as a congresswoman, she supported a woman’s right to choose. She spoke out against traditional roles for women professionals (including secretaries, teachers, and librarians).  She argued that women were capable of entering many other professions. Black women especially, she felt, had been pushed into stereotypical roles, or conventional professions, such as maids and nannies.

Shirley Chisholm reported that “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men.” In particular, she expressed frustration about the “black matriarch thing,” saying, “They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the black woman must step back.”

Black Women In Politics Today

Black women have always stepped up in the Democratic Party. Donna Brazile, a Black woman from New Orleans just completed her term as the Acting Chair of the DNC.  Moreover, Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman making a serious bid to become the Chair of the California Democratic Party in 2017.

 

 

Former Ohio Senator Nina Turner was one of the most visible and effective surrogates for Senator Bernie Sanders. She is an accomplished advocate for social justice in her own right. After the Democratic Party rejected (and disrespected) Bernie Sanders, there was an effort to draft Sen. Turner to run for Vice-President on the Green Party ticket or for Ohio Governor.

Our own Congresswoman Barbara Lee is one of the most respected and effective representatives this country has ever seen. It has always been my joy and honor to say “Barbara Lee Speaks for Me!”

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby

I am humbled and inspired to represent AD18 on the Democratic Party Central Committee. We now all know that it is an important time to serve in our local Democratic Party.  I feel blessed to have found my way into the middle of the fray!

Many years ago, there was a commercial that tickled my father, David Price. I can still hear him saying “you’ve come a long way baby” with a big grin.  Dad was the father of two daughters and the brother of 5 sisters.  He was proud of the advances made by women in his lifetime.

On Monday, March 6th, I walked with 79 other amazing women through another door into history. As I walk forward, I know that my Lord has brought me “from a mighty long way.”  As I continue to grow as a leader, I know that “to whom much is given, much is required.”

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