2014 Election

About RPA | 2014 Richmond City Elections



Analysis of RPA's 2014 Election Victory from Labor Notes

Unbought Slate Wins against Democrats-for-Chevron

by Jane Slaughter

It's not often that a city council race in a city of 100,000 draws national attention. It happened in Richmond, California, this fall because one big corporation was so shameless in its open attempt to buy the election.

But even more remarkable was the fact that the corporation got beat. Up against the Democratic Party establishment, plus $3 million in campaign spending by Chevron—the third-largest company in the world—a grassroots group won.

Continue to the full article in Labor Notes.

Jane Slaughter, formerly Labor Notes' editor, worked on the RPA campaign for six weeks this fall.


The Campaign Coordinator’s Perspective

Why Did Progressives Win Richmond?

by Mike Parker

Across the country big money almost totally dominated the elections. Why did progressives win Richmond?

Many factors contributed to our winning, including:

  • The contributions of so many individuals
  • Chevron shot itself in the foot
  • Our great candidates
  • Their poor candidates
  • Cartoons
  • Alliances
  • Great allies
  • Good literature
  • Better use of data
  • Ground campaign

But all of these were true in many areas of the country. Over-the-top attack literature worked. Many of the more progressive campaigns had good candidates, literature, allies, ground campaign, etc. But they lost.

Not only did we have to beat back Chevron's money and expert campaign firms, we additionally faced $100,000 from the realtors and the active opposition of the Building Trades unions, the official Democratic Party, and groups like BAPAC and the Chamber of Commerce. Our opposition also had, or made it appear that they had, the endorsement of the big-name popular politicians like George Miller.

What made us able to turn around the hit pieces and the essential ingredient in our victory is that we have been organizing and building for 10 years, and we have built roots through everyday community activity. We have built alliances with unions and other organizations with whom we share basic values. The Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, located in the Iron Triangle and staffed entirely by volunteers, has become a community center, regularly used by all kinds of local groups. We have trained leaders and supported leaders developing through other organizations. It was organization that enabled us to put together all the individual factors above.

Our basic values have been simple: a progressive movement in Richmond prioritizes improving the health and quality of life of working people and those disadvantaged in the society. It is independent of corporate money, and it supports diversity in our city while unifying on those issues that improve the city as a whole. Our power comes from empowering still more people.

It is no accident that for the last two years the Chevron representatives on the Council, Booze and Bates, have been mercilessly attacking the RPA, culminating in an absurd and desperate piece of racist literature in the last days of the campaign. It is no accident that the only candidates Chevron specifically attacked were the three RPA-endorsed candidates. Their consultants recognized us as a threat to its power because we were.

The RPA is the key to achieving a progressive agenda and making Richmond still better. The challenge now is to continue building and broadening the RPA between elections.



“Our Democracy Cannot be Bought”

Gayle Thanks You!

Dear friends:

What a great victory for the people of Richmond on Tuesday!

See the election results here.

Team Richmond (me, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez) won the 4-year City Council seats.

In addition, Tom Butt won the Mayor's seat and Jael Myrick won the 2-year City Council seat.

A profound thank you to the hundreds of Team Richmond volunteers for your hard work and dedication. Together we overcame 3 million dollars plus of corporate money!

My heartfelt appreciation to the Richmond voters who made it clear that our democracy cannot be bought!

This historic election marks the culmination of a decade of hard work by so many in our grassroots movement. At a time when our nation's democracy is in peril due to the outsized influence of corporate money, grassroots democracy has prevailed in Richmond. What an awesome accomplishment we have achieved together!

So proud and honored to be part of our ongoing transformation...

With respect and appreciation,
Gayle McLaughlin

P.S. Check out the Bill Moyers Show where I had the opportunity, along with Richmond Confidential reporter Harriet Blair Rowan, to discuss Richmond and the election. See the show online here: Facing Down Corporate Greed.



“Truth and Integrity Prevailed”

Jovanka Thanks You!

Greetings good people,

As I've been saying for a long time: there is so much good going on in Richmond! Tuesday's election victory is yet another good thing to add to Richmond's pride and purpose.

Tuesday's victory is a victory for the people of Richmond in a big way.  Truth and integrity prevailed. Team Richmond (Gayle McLaughlin, Eduardo Martinez and I) won the 4-year City Council seats. Tom Butt won the seat for Mayor and Jael Myrick won the 2-year City Council seat.

We were faced with more than a $3 million dollar war chest that Chevron had at its disposal and utilized to defeat the people of Richmond, but it did not succeed in buying our election and our government.  The people of Richmond mobilized and united to defeat a giant of a corporation, sending a loud message that our government is not for sale!

I send you my sincere appreciation and deep gratitude for all the ways so many of you showed up and dedicated time energy and resources to help bring about this victory. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for volunteering by walking precincts, phone banking and reaching out through social media. Thank you for organizing precincts, using your artistic talents to fix vandalized signs, helping to create mailers and billboards and greeting voters at the poll. Thank you for all that I am aware that you did as well as that of which I am unaware. There was simply so much happening by so many of you so much of the time! It was our united effort that helped defeat $3 million dollars of false ads and propaganda. Together, as with our efforts during WWII, we did it!

I am incredibly proud and honored to be part of our ongoing transformation in Richmond. I am so proud of Richmond!



“We See the Fruits of Grassroots Action”

Eduardo Thanks You!

At the beginning I was overwhelmed by the massive onslaught of misinformation that Chevron money bought. Not only was my mailbox crammed with glossy flyers, but my phone rang with push-pull surveys, my internet was peppered with ads, our city was covered with billboards and bus stop signs, all designed to promote the Chevron candidates and to make Team Richmond look like cartoon villains. Moving Forward with their multi-million budget had a voice louder and more invasive than any individual could ever muster, but the people of Richmond refused to be shouted out.

When Bernie Sanders came to Richmond, he wanted to see grassroots action at work. He said, "The real challenge for progressives in the coming days, months, and years is to build a powerful grassroots movement that is able to break the stranglehold that big money and corporate interests have placed on the nation's democratic insitutions." Today in Richmond we see the fruits of the grassroots action that Bernie was looking for, thanks to all of you who are part of Team Richmond.

I consider each and every one of you who participated in this process of democracy that led to our resounding win as a fellow teammate, and I thank you for joining us in this historic victory. Without your help Citizens United would have triumphed over the will of the people. Instead, the canvassing, phone banking, fundraising, organizing and all the other aspects of running a campaign beat the multi-million dollar blitz launched by Chevron via Moving Forward and their many re-creations of various PACs. We have shown the world that grassroots organizing can trump the power of money. Now we must prove to the world that this movement is sustainable, that we can and will continue to move our city in a direction that reflects our shared commitment to economic, environmental, and social justice.

Since the election, I have had the honor to celebrate the official opening of Harbor-8 Park and to participate in the "Magnifying Richmond's Voice, Where Do We Go From Here?" workshop. As your future council member, I will continue to serve as the involved community member I have always been. I hope to continue to show my appreciation through my service during my term on the Richmond City Council. Thanks to all of you again and again!


Voters Tell Chevron “No Sale!”

Team Richmond Prevails in Richmond City Council Election

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez win Council seats.

Vice-Mayor Jovanka Beckles re-elected to Council.

In Mayor’s race, Councilmember Tom Butt defeats Chevron-backed Councilmember Nat Bates.

In a “David vs. Goliath” race that garnered national media attention, 3 of 3 Team Richmond progressive candidates were elected to the Richmond City Council. 5 of 5 candidates promoted by Chevron were defeated. Contra Costa County election results (as of 5pm Friday, November 7) indicated that Mayor Gayle McLaughlin (limited by the City Charter to two consecutive terms as Mayor) has won a City Council seat, along with Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez. Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles was re-elected to the Council.

In the race for Mayor, Councilman Tom Butt (endorsed by Team Richmond) defeated his Chevron-backed opponent Councilman Nat Bates.

In the race for the 2-year Council seat, Councilperson Jael Myrick (endorsed by Team Richmond) defeated Councilperson Corky Boozé.

Three other council candidates, all heavily promoted by Chevron’s political action committee, Moving Forward—Donna Powers, Al Martinez, and Charles Ramsey—were soundly rejected by voters.

The results are a stunning defeat to the Chevron Corporation. According to campaign finance reports, Chevron’s Moving Forward committee spent $72 per registered voter (over $3 million in total) to promote its hand-picked Chevron-friendly candidates, and to defeat 3 Team Richmond candidates and Tom Butt (whose campaigns spent less than $1 per registered voter). Chevron’s outsized spending and attempt to purchase a pro-Chevron city council drew outrage from commentators and public figures across the nation, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Los Angeles Times columnists David Horsey and Michael Hiltzik, and PBS host Bill Moyers.


Richmond in the National Media Spotlight

Mayor Gayle Speaks Out on Democracy Now and Moyers & Company

See Gayle's interview on Democracy Now.

See Gayle's interview on Moyers & Company.

From Gayle's comments to Juan González and Amy Goodman:

Yes, what's happening in Richmond now is that we have made remarkable—a remarkable transformation over the past 10 years since I've been in office, with other progressive electives and a progressive community. Previous to that, over the past hundred years, we were known as a company town, with Chevron having control of the City Council, having the City Council bought out, in their pockets. We had among the highest rates in the nation of violence. We were known for widespread corruption. You know, Richmond had the refinery, with a situation of allowing it to continue to pollute, without the refinery paying its fair share of taxes, without hiring locally, without upgrading the refinery in a responsible way in terms of having safety for our residents. In fact, they have thousands of clamps holding corroded pipes together. And that’s what led to the fire of 2012.


The East Bay Express Endorses Team Richmond

Vote McLaughlin, Beckles, Myrick, and Eduardo Martinez for Richmond City Council

As we noted in our story last week about this year's Richmond City Council campaign, Chevron is spending millions of dollars in an effort to retake control of city government. And so we strongly urge Richmond voters to reject this power grab, and to elect councilmembers who will stand up to the oil giant and work to protect our environment. We also think that since Chevron lost control over the council several years ago, the city's progressive leadership has been instrumental in turning city government around: Richmond is no longer beset by public corruption, crime is down substantially, and the city's once-troubled police department is now a national model of reform.

As a result, for the three four-year council seats in this year's election, we wholeheartedly endorse the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) slate of candidates: Gayle McLaughlin, who is being termed out of the mayor's office this year and is seeking a spot on the council; Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, who is running for another four-year term; and Eduardo Martinez, a longtime educator who barely missed out on winning a council seat two years ago. We think McLaughlin, Beckles, and Eduardo Martinez will help Richmond continue its renaissance and will support Police Chief Chris Magnus' reform efforts.

Continue to the full East Bay Express editorial.


"Shining a Light on Richmond’s News"

Election Edition of
The Richmond Sun

Like its predecessor, this one is crammed with a lively mix of articles, cartoons, Voice of the Voter features, and informative graphics. It's most fun to read full-sized, but if you live outside of Richmond, don't have a voter in your house, threw it away by accident with all that junk mail from Moving Forward, or just can't wait for your home delivery, here's a link that's good for sharing, too.

Read what Jim Rogers' election could cost Richmond, and other arguments against all of Chevron's candidates.

More hard copies are available at 1021 Macdonald, with the office open 9-6 most days for this week before Election Day.


She Works Hard for Richmond

Report: Mayor Gayle Flies Less Frequently than
Chevron’s Candidate

Contrary to all the Chevron-funded billboards, mailers, door hangers, and TV commercials, Gayle McLaughlin has worked long and hard for Richmond, in Richmond. According to a recent Richmond Confidential article, "an analysis of city documents, invoices, travel receipts and bank statements dating to 2010 shows that McLaughlin has traveled less, missed fewer meetings, and spent less money on the trips than City Councilman Nat Bates, a longtime supporter of the oil giant's mammoth refinery here and the Chevron-backed committee's favored candidate for mayor."

Bates outspent our mayor about 3:1 on travel, in terms of both time and money. Apparently his own position on frequent and international trips differs from the stance in his patron's ads; he is quoted in the article: "You can't accomplish things staying at home, and not engaging with global community." All this has led Tom Butt, who is running against Bates for mayor, to conclude that "the Chevron-funded campaign to paint McLaughlin as a frequent traveler who has eschewed her responsibilities is hypocritical."


Andrew Young in Richmond

Prophet of Urban Renewal or Big Oil’s Reverend for Rent?

by Steve Early

In his remarkable six decade career in public life, 82-year old Andy Young has been many things to many people: civil rights movement minister and courageous ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Democratic Congressman from Georgia, U.S. emissary to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter, two-term mayor of Atlanta in the 1980s, and then leader of the National Council of Churches.

On Monday night, he appeared before a largely African-American crowd at a "community dinner" in Richmond. It was sponsored by a 501 (c) (4) organization known as For Richmond, which dispenses grants to local non-profits like the YMCA. Young’s appearance showcased his most recent incarnation as a skilled, if not uncontroversial, friend of private enterprise, including some of the biggest firms in the world. The timing of his visit was not unrelated to Richmond’s upcoming municipal elections.

Continue to the full Beyond Chron story.


Town Meeting for Economic Justice

Senator Bernie Sanders Rallies Richmond’s Progressives

By Harriet Rowan

Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, delivered a rousing speech to an overflowing audience in Richmond on Thursday. His speech focused on the growing economic inequality in the United States and argued for the importance of electing candidates who will implement progressive policies in the face of the growing influence of big money in politics.

"At this profound moment in American history, where the billionaire class wants to get it all... we have got to fight back tooth and nail," Sanders said, drawing boisterous applause from a crowd of about 500. "We cannot allow them to take over Richmond... we cannot allow them to take over America."

Sanders was invited to Richmond by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin to help rally her progressive base in the face of $3 million in spending by Chevron Corp. to oppose McLaughlin and her allies in the Nov. 4 election.

Continue to the full Richmond Confidential story.

Also see Richmond Confidential's multimedia report on the Bernie Sanders Town Meeting:
The Best of Bernie Sanders in Richmond.


Richmond in the National Media Spotlight

Chevron Trying to Buy Richmond’s Government

Since Rachel Maddow decried Chevron's interference in Richmond politics, numerous national media voices have featured Chevron vs. Richmond as an example of corporate cash dominating American elections:


Show Your Friends and Neighbors

Team Richmond Videos

What Does Team Richmond Represent?

Team Richmond Values

Eduardo Martinez Sets the Record Straight

Eduardo Martinez

Re-Elect Jovanka Beckles, Richmond City Council

Jovanka Beckles


Can Money Buy Your Vote?

Is Richmond’s Election for Sale?

Chevron is on track to spend between $2 and $3 million trying to gain control of the Richmond City Council on Election Day. The corporation will likely pay out $120 per voter—and that’s just the reported expenditures. The other candidates will be lucky to spend one-tenth as much, combined.

Two million dollars buys a lot of billboards, mailers, door knocking and phone-banking. Plus lots of hit pieces on candidates Chevron doesn’t like. It isn’t fair. But it is legal, so this election will be a real test of the power of money in our democracy.

Why does Chevron want to own the Council?

The number one reason is the City’s lawsuit against Chevron over the August 2012 fire and its prior history of accidents.

Chevron and our next City Council will likely settle the case to avoid a trial. The City has hired the same law firm that won $70 million for the town of San Bruno after the 2010 PG&E pipeline explosion.

If Richmond and its lawyers negotiate well, we could see a settlement of more than $100 million—for the costs of the fire to Richmond and the damage to our reputation and property values over the last 20 years.

But a new, Chevron-friendly City Council could settle cheap—and save the company many times what it’s spending on this election.

Does it have a right?

The second reason Chevron wants to control the council is to preserve its “right” to pollute our air. A progressive City Council could work closely with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. We could make Chevron clean up its act over the next ten years, by truly modernizing the refinery.

But Chevron is determined to prevent that.

Third, Chevron loves its sweet deal for low property taxes and doesn’t want any interference.

Remember, when Chevron wants to start a new project, it has to get city approval. That gives the people of Richmond bargaining power. Chevron wants to own both sides of the bargaining table.

Reprinted from the premiere edition of The Richmond Sun (2.5 MB PDF).


A Letter from Mayor McLaughlin

Richmond is Better Now

In the last eight years that I’ve been privileged to be your mayor, we’ve come a long way from our history of scarcity and despair. Richmond has gained national attention as a community courageous enough to define its own destiny.

  • Together we have compelled Chevron to be a more responsible neighbor and pay its fair share. We are making sure the company upgrades its refinery to make it as clean and safe as it can be.
  • Homicides are down 66%, to the lowest number in 33 years. Our community policing program is a model for focusing on prevention instead of confrontation.
  • We’ve renovated many of our parks. We’ve installed the most solar per person in the Bay Area. Residents say they are more satisfied with city services.

Residents from every corner of the city are saying: Richmond is better now.

If you agree, please join with me, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez to:

  • Keep fighting all crimes with our community-based policing and prevention programs.
  • Make our neighborhoods even more liveable by fixing our streets and helping struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.
  • Open our schools up to the community with mentoring, adult education, parenting classes, and training volunteers to help our kids.
  • Reopen Doctors Medical Center as a full-service hospital.

Powerful special interests, like Chevron, may fight us every step of the way, but we stand strong with our community to create prosperity, peace and health for every Richmond resident.


National Luminaries Pitching In

Sanders, Kucinich Rally for East Bay Progressives

by Steve Early

If you’re Gayle McLaughlin, the Green mayor of Richmond, now termed out but running for city council, or Dan Siegel, the radical labor lawyer challenging an incumbent mayor in Oakland, who can rally the troops better than a former mayor  who was a pioneering municipal reformer?

Both candidates hope to generate some home-stretch campaign energy, with the help of such invited out-of-town guests, at public forums and related fundraisers in their respective East Bay bailiwicks next week.

On Oct. 16, McLaughlin is hosting Bernie Sanders, former four-term mayor of Burlington, Vermont, at a "Town Meeting" in Richmond, preceded by a reception at her downtown campaign headquarters. Two days later in Oakland, Siegel is bringing in Dennis Kucinich, a one-term mayor of Cleveland, to speak at two similar events, one of which also features Tom Hayden, a leading progressive activist in the 1960s and longtime legislator in Sacramento.

Continue to the full BeyondChron story.


Big Money Influence on Local Politics

Chevron Wants to Buy My Vote

by David Helvarg

If corporations are people then one of them has been stalking me.

When humans think about the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that corporations are people and money is free speech, and about the impact unlimited campaign spending is having on our democracy, they tend to think too big. The most significant consequences may not be at the national or state level but in cities where elections can determine decisions about property taxes, land-use permits and zoning that have a direct effect on people’s lives and on companies' bottom lines...

Until 2008, when a group of candidates calling themselves the Progressive Alliance won seats, Richmond's City Council was dominated by a refinery-friendly majority known by some as the Chevron Five. Now the oil giant is trying to turn Richmond back into a company town where elected officials don’t force it to pay more property taxes, or demand transparent environmental impact reports  or challenge it on pollution and local hiring practices.

Continue to the full LA Times editorial.


Richmond Confidential on Chevron’s Political Spending

Chevron’s Moving Forward Spreads Big Money across Political Campaign Committees

by Harriet Rowan

Chevron Richmond poured at least $1.26 million into the Richmond mayoral and city council races between Aug. 14 and Sept. 29, funneling the money through three campaign committees, all with iterations of the name "Moving Forward."

According to documents filed with the Richmond City Clerk, Moving Forward’s campaign committee, created in 2012, transferred at least $1.9 million as of Sept. 17 to two newly-created committees. The amount transferred exceeds the $1.7 million cash on hand figure that was widely reported after the last filing deadline on June 30. Moving Forward has likely received additional money from Chevron or other sources. The next campaign filing deadline is Oct. 6.

The two new committees have spent a combined total of at least $1,268,688.17 so far, with over a month remaining before the Nov. 4 election.

Continue to the full Richmond Confidential story.

See Richmond Confidential's follow-up story:
$3 Million in Chevron's Moving Forward War Chest

Also see Michael Hiltzik's story in the LA Times:
How Chevron Swamps a Small City with Campaign Money and Bogus News


East Bay Express on the Mayoral Race

The Battle for Richmond’s Soul

by John Geluardi

Richmond voters have three mayoral candidates to choose from this November, but the race is really between Tom Butt and Nat Bates, two men who have a combined 54 years of service on the city council — and polar-opposite visions for the city's future. Bates is considered the most conservative member of the council and is a strong backer of Chevron and its massive oil refinery, while Butt has a long history of promoting good government policies and challenging Chevron's sphere of influence in the city. Butt is not as liberal as the council's progressive faction, although he frequently votes with it...

Whether it's Bates or Butt, Richmond's next mayor could face a serious budget shortfall, along with rising pension costs. The new mayor also will have to deal with a city council that has developed a reputation for petty bickering and unruliness. Furthermore, the coming election will determine if Chevron will regain control of the city's political structure. The multinational oil giant is spending at least $1.6 million to elect Bates and three council candidates.

Continue to the full East Bay Express article.


Richmond Rising III, Pitching In for Team Richmond

Forty Canvassers Went Out on Saturday, Sept. 20

Here's the crowd of volunteers who spent their Saturday morning canvassing for Team Richmond. They partnered up and went to neighborhoods that hadn't yet seen a lot of walkin', knockin' 'n' talkin' for Eduardo, Jovanka, and Gayle.

Many returned for a lunch together at 1pm, highlighted by a talk from Richmond author and activist David Helvarg, who said he'll "believe that corporations are people when Texas puts one on death row."

If you're willing and able to take on an area in your neighborhood to canvass regularly, that's ideal. If you're willing to give an hour or two once or twice, that would also help. Either way, please get in touch: email us or sign up online. If you want a partner, there are seasoned canvassers to meet and walk with you, available most days from 4-6, and on weekends. There's a briefing every Saturday at 9 at BBPC, 1021 Macdonald, near Richmond BART. No wheels are necessary.

Join the Team!


Activist Resources for the November Election

Know Your Candidates

There are two poles of power in this country: corporations and people.*

Here are some resources to counter the intense offense mounted by Moving Forward ("Major Funding by Chevron"):

  • Accentuate the positive: There are working papers on education, jobs and businesses, and Doctors Medical Center. Understand the Team's positions on these issues, and the progress we've already accomplished.
  • Take a look at the RPA facebook page—a source of quick commentary, community perspective, and often a welcome chuckle or shot of solidarity.
  • Make your own signs. Take a selfie or a group photo with them. Design a t-shirt, or show what you'd put up "if you had a billboard."
  • Remember that "you protect that which you love." As the Team Richmond window signs proclaim: We Love Richmond.


Beyond Chron on Chevron Smears

Chevron Sounds Alarm Against East Bay “Anarchism”

by Steve Early

One of the great things about living near Chevron’s big East Bay refinery—yes, the one that caught fire and exploded two years ago—is its system of early warnings about new disasters about to befall Richmond.

In our post-Citizens United era, the nation’s second largest oil producer is now free to spend $1.6 million (or more, if necessary) on direct mail and phone alerts, designed to keep 30,000 likely voters fully informed about threats to their city.

During the last week, glossy mailers from a Chevron-funded group called “Moving Forward” have been flowing our way, at the rate of one or two per day—almost seven weeks before Election Day.

And, then, just to make sure that Chevron’s urgent message is getting through, we’ve also been called by pollsters. They claim to be surveying opinion about Richmond politics, but actually just recite the contents of these same Moving Forward mailers over the phone.

My favorite manifestation of this negative campaigning involves a Latino candidate for Richmond City council. His name is Eduardo Martinez and remembering the Eduardo part is important. By some strange coincidence, Moving Forward—the Chevron-backed “Coalition of Labor Unions, Small Businesses, Public Safety and Firefighters Associations”—is backing another Martinez for city council whose first name is Al and who is apparently not a public safety threat.

Continue to the full Beyond Chron article.


From KPFA’s Up Front, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014

Richmond Today and Tomorrow

In this wide-ranging, half-hour discussion (at 33:35 in KPFA's archive), guest-host Marie Choi asks Mike Parker and Andrés Soto about why Mike withdrew from the mayoral race, Chevron's candidates, the role of social movements, the status and future of Chevron's refinery, progressive strategy, our opposition, the main issue in the 2014 race, and beyond.

Marie Choi: As November elections approach, we're turning our attention to Richmond, California, where the Richmond Progressive Alliance is battling oil-giant Chevron for control of the City Council. For many of us outside of Richmond, the RPA has been an example of what's possible when an independent grassroots organization gains council seats and pushes through a progressive agenda. Through a combination of grassroots-mobilization and holding key council positions, the RPA and its allies have won major concessions from Chevron, defended homeowners from bank foreclosures, and changed the city's approach to policing. We're talking this morning with Mike Parker and Andrés Soto, they are members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, and Mike was until recently a mayoral candidate for Richmond, California.

Continue to the full transcript.


An Interview with Mayor Gayle

Political Decisions from the Heart

by Robert "Han" Bishop

How did Richmond go from being a Chevron company town to the most progressive city in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Why is it so difficult for politicians to make decisions from the heart, even ones who are well-meaning?

Why is the upcoming election critical in preventing Chevron manipulation of the democratic process, and returning Richmond to the past where Chevron always gets what they want, regardless of public safety concerns and increased environmental pollution?

What does it mean to raise human consciousness as a public official?

These and other important issues are addressed in my (16 min) interview with Gayle McLaughlin, the Mayor of Richmond, California.


More Video Showing How Wrong Bates is for Richmond

Nat Bates Promotes Drivers License Check Points that Target Latinos

Richmond used to be noted for its murder. Now it is noted for how it has reduced violence. Mayoral candidate Nat Bates's main program for safety is to return the city to the policies that build distrust between the largest ethnic group in the city (40% Latino) and the police. Bates is the Chevron candidate for Mayor, who has enabled hate-speech at Council meetings.


"That Wily Corporation"

What Could Chevron be Up To?

by Patsy Byers

The SF Weekly recently published a profile of one of the chief "spin doctors" for Chevron, Sam Singer, which gives insights into his methods of damage-control and opinion-shaping. With the August 6, 2012 explosion and fire at the Chevron Richmond refinery, he was probably busy before the first patient had been seen at Doctors Medical Center.

In contrast to Singer, Albany resident John Irminger displayed this understanding of Chevron's operations, published as a letter to the editor on Wednesday in the El Cerrito Journal (emphasis added):

"In addition to financing the campaigns of local politicians, Chevron does million-dollar sweet things all over the East Bay. So people love Chevron.

"But, that wily corporation then finagles hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and property devaluations that primarily affect the ability of local governments to fulfill the needs of their constituents.

"Chevron's strategy ensures it always has some friendly politicians, and that prominent and influential people, especially in charities and education, are dependent on Chevron for their programs. Thus, they (understandably) sing the praises of their benefactor.

"These are the tentacles of power -- pulling us the wrong way.

"Let's not forget that Chevron's primary motivation is to make money by refining increasingly toxic oil sources, and is spending billions to do this. This is not planet—or life—friendly energy investment..."

A recent Buzzflash for Truthout article nicely fleshes out the premise of its title: "Chevron: Global Bandit, Local Bully," but its concluding paragraphs show a stunning lack of awareness by the local media people it cites:

"As KQED's Tara Siler and Molly Samuel recently observed: 'What, exactly, is coming up on Chevron's agenda in Richmond is an open question.'

"The Contra Costa Times' Robert Rogers told KQED that 'The modernization plan was a major hurdle, and Chevron passed it. What they foresee as being an issue in which their interests could perhaps be decided by the council is relatively unknown.'"

Have they forgotten the lawsuit the City of Richmond has brought against Chevron for damages, including the August 6th disaster? I bet Chevron and Sam Singer remember it. Isn't it likely that City Council will be making decisions about that in the next 4 years? Wouldn't it be a whole lot more profitable for Chevron to have a council that's comfortable with Richmond once again being a company town? With councilmembers who are themselves in the role of dependents, colluding to undermine legitimate public power?

Let's elect a city council that is willing to challenge the power plays of Chevron! Let's get a council that will implement the life-friendly suggestion with which John Irminger concluded his letter: "If cloudy, high-latitude Germany makes solar its priority, the sunny United States surely can also."


SF Chronicle on "the Chevron Candidates"

Chevron Pouring Money into Richmond Election

by Chip Johnson

Chevron, the city's main employer and taxpayer, is also the biggest spender on political campaigns - it set aside $1.6 million in a political action committee called Moving Forward that supports the oil giant's favorite City Council and mayoral candidates.

Let me repeat: $1.6 million. For local elections in a city of a little over 106,000 residents...

Despite all the money thrown around by this corporate giant, it's clear not all of Richmond's residents are so easily swayed by swag. But that's not stopping Chevron from trying to influence the outcome of a city election.

Change is coming to Richmond, slow but steady. Crime is way down, development is on the way up, and the city needs to shed its historical reputation as a "company" town.

Continue to the full SF Chronicle article.


Surpassing Our Goal: Over 1,000 Homes

Richmond Rising a Rousing Success

Richmond is Rising! Team Richmond smashed through its goal of knocking on over 1,000 doors. In a single day, we knocked on over 1,130! With over 50 volunteers, including 25 canvassing with us for the first time, we met many supporters and convinced new ones along the way. And it's fun! Together, we show that an organized community has the power to make its voice heard.

Thanks to all of our volunteers for their amazing efforts in support of a progressive Richmond, many of whom joined in from the Sunflower Alliance or the Our Power national convening. Reports say the after-party was good food, good jazz (featuring Andrés Soto on saxophone), and a good time!


Volunteers Needed to Help Coordinate Canvassing

Maintain the Momentum of Richmond Rising

by Janet Johnson

Right now we need volunteers for two projects:

  1. Data entry
    We held a successful and inspiring canvassing event last Saturday, and we need to get the information into our software database to follow up with our supporters. We'll train you, help you get started, and be on tap to answer your questions.
  2. Phoning
    We need to call Team Richmond supporters to recruit them for the next big event in early September. Our campaign's secret ingredient is its volunteer canvassers, folks going door-to-door to talk with voters about the issues. We need to keep working to enlarge this amazing team of dedicated volunteers.

Won't you help us win our campaign for a better Richmond? Many hands make light work, and the work we do now will send ripples far beyond our town. Please join us! 


Chevron Candidates Revealed

Chevron Starts with $1.6 Million to Buy City Council

by Mike Parker

Chevron has already given $1.6 Million to its campaign organization to elect Chevron's favored candidates: Nat Bates as mayor and Charles Ramsey, Donna Powers, and Al Martinez to the Richmond City Council.

Here is the official filing. Chevron has already laid out $63,000 for the first phase of a billboard blitz.

These candidates will all doubtless thank Chevron while insisting that they are independent and have offered Chevron nothing in exchange. Sure.


SF Chronicle on "Anybody but Bates"

United Front Against Bates

by Chip Johnson

Try "Anybody but Bates" - as in Richmond councilman Nat Bates, who is running for mayor.

Bates, 82, is a longtime political presence in Richmond, a walking, talking anachronism who has held office, not continuously, since 1967, including two stints as mayor in the late 1970s.

In the opinion of his rivals, a Bates victory represents a step back in time - and in the wrong direction.

So on Friday, Richmond Progressive Alliance candidate Mike Parker withdrew his candidacy and veteran City Council member Tom Butt announced his mayoral campaign. Uche Uwahemu, a local business owner, is also running for the seat.

The concern among the city's political leaders is that if Parker and Butt split the city's liberal vote, it could provide an opportunity for Bates to win - and both Butt and Parker believe that is something that must be prevented.

Continue to the full SF Chronicle article.


Concentrating our Energies toward Progressive Governance

Mike Parker Withdraws from Mayoral Race

After five months of vigorous campaigning for the office of Richmond Mayor, I am withdrawing from the race. A few days before the final filing deadline, I learned that Tom Butt had decided to enter the race.

My supporters and I determined that in this race the progressive vote would likely be split. We decided my time is better spent campaigning for our team of progressive candidates for the Richmond City Council, Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and Gayle McLaughlin.

Taken together Gayle, Eduardo, and Jovanka, and the many campaign supporters behind them, represent a different kind of politics, based on organized people-power—not on corporate power.

I am still an active part of “Team Richmond.” I will work very hard to continue the progress we have made in Richmond and to elect members of the Council who support the fight for Doctors Hospital, a cleaner and safer refinery, jobs for Richmond, and rebuilding our system of public education through community involvement. We need to challenge the Chevron candidates and those unwilling to stand up against Chevron when representing the community.

In the course of this campaign, I have met and been inspired by many wonderful Richmond residents. I thank all those volunteers, unions, and community organizations who have endorsed me and especially those volunteers who worked so hard to make my campaign an exciting grass roots effort. I know we can continue the same spirit and energy to make Team Richmond a success.

In gratitude and solidarity
Mike Parker


Jovanka Beckles Profiled in the SF Chronicle

Councilwoman Perseveres through Taunts, Rants and Homophobic Slurs

By Carolyn Jones

Mark Wassberg took to the podium, wagged his finger at the Richmond City Council and said:

"I'm going to keep coming up here and tell you how gays have no morality... You're filth. You're dirt. Because I have the constitutional right to say it."

The comments during a July meeting of the council were directed at Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, the city's first openly lesbian councilwoman. She sighed and listened impassively. After all, she'd heard it all before. For four years.

Continue to the full article.

Mike Parker Comments

While we need to protect free speech, we need to also make it clear that there is no support for the enablers and apologists for this kind of hate speech. My opponent for Mayor, Councilmember Nat Bates, regularly gives support to Wassberg and others and attacks Mayor McLaughlin when she tries to establish order.


A Richmonder Speaks Truth to Power at SFGate

Slick Chevron Campaign to Control Richmond

by David Helvarg

If the Supreme Court is right that corporations are people and money is free speech, then Chevron is the biggest loudmouth in Richmond, where I live.

When people think of unlimited campaign spending, they tend to think of national elections, but the most insidious impacts may be taking place at the state and municipal levels. I know Chevron contributes to our local economy because it disbursed more than $2 million in city election campaign money since 2010, or roughly $50 each on me and every other registered voter in our small city of 106,000. The company provides jobs not only at its sprawling Richmond oil refinery but also for public relations, printers and a private detective who was hired a few years ago to smear the mayor.

Chevron wants to get rid of our Green Party mayor and progressive City Council majority because they've challenged the company on property taxes and pollution. That's why in 2012 Chevron spent $422,000 backing a single candidate for one of the seven council seats that pays $16,830 a year. The company wants to return to the days when the council majority was known as the "Chevron 5."

Continue to the full SFGate article.


Add Your Own Endorsement Today

Recent Endorsements for Team Richmond

Recently Team Richmond has received endorsements from these fine folks.

The one from the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club is notable since it's the first time they've supported a slate that is not affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Read about ILWU support for the Maritime Union of Australia in their battle against Chevron's attacks on labor, including their recent meeting with Gayle McLaughlin and Mike Parker.

If you have not already done so, please add your name to the list of endorsers for Team Richmond candidates: Mike Parker for Mayor, Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and Gayle McLaughlin for City Council. Send us a brief e-mail with "Endorse Team Richmond" in the subject line. Include your full name, city of residence, and any affiliation or title you would like to include (for identification purposes only). It's free and easy. Your taking this step to support Team Richmond will really be appreciated. Thank you!


Team Richmond Needs More Canvassers

Encouragement from an Active Canvasser

by Jeanne Kortz

The Progressives have changed Richmond for the better. I cannot imagine what will happen to Richmond if Nat Bates, Chevron’s candidate for mayor, or Charles Ramsey, the corporate special interests’ candidate, wins. Richmond will fall back to the dark ages of corporate cronyism. Nat Bates consistently supports Chevron and other corporate interests over community interests, and he will have the advantage of Chevron’s billboards, TV ads and mailers. Charles Ramsey wants Richmond to be another Silicon Valley, a poster child for income and housing inequality with the cost of living skyrocketing. His campaign has the deep pockets of the building trades (Chevron’s “Modernization” Project with pollution increases intact) and other special interest groups.

The Richmond Progressive Alliance and the Team Richmond candidates don’t have those kinds of deep pockets. What we have is people power which we need to utilize by getting supporters out to canvass their neighborhoods. I’ve had the pleasure of canvassing with Mike Parker, our progressive candidate for Mayor, a number of times over the past two months. The canvassing has been a wonderful, positive experience. People are very receptive to our cause, especially if you tell them that the Team Richmond candidates take no corporate donations, and are beholden only to the citizens of Richmond.

I realize that some of you might feel somewhat intimidated by canvassing. I felt that way myself, but once I experienced the openness and friendliness of most people who answer their doors, I was no longer intimated, but enthusiastic and hopeful.

I want to encourage everyone who cares about the Richmond election in November to get out and canvass for our progressive candidates. Richmond is better now, and we must continue with the positive changes that have been made possible by our progressive majority on the city council.

Please consider canvassing your neighborhood, or coming to canvass with a Richmond resident if you are from a neighboring town. Team Richmond holds canvasser trainings to get people started at 11am every 2nd Saturday and every 4th Sunday of the month at the RPA office on Macdonald. You can sign up through the Team Richmond canvassing page. Your contribution as a canvasser will really make a difference in this important election and ensure that Richmond continues to improve.

Thank you!

—Jeanne Kortz, Richmond Resident and RPA Member


Don’t Miss this Article in The Nation

RPA Making History

Journalist, author, and Richmonder Steve Early raises our struggle to national attention.

Can Big Oil Retake Richmond?

In 2006, California progressives won control of City Hall. Now Chevron and its allies are spending plenty to get it back.


What We Lack in Capital We’ll Make Up in Creativity

If I Had a Billboard

And we do have a classic billboard at 23rd & Garvin. Check it out!


Help Wanted: Team Richmond is Looking for

Photographers, Calendar & Housing Coordinators

Join our team of photographers. We could publish a list of events we know candidates will attend from which team photographers could choose according to their own schedules. That way we could capture the candidates in action for publication in print and social media.

Point and shoot, camera phone, high tech expensive camera? No matter. They all take fine photographs for our purposes. Then, all you would do is email the photos in. Photo credits given, if you like.

If interested, please contact [email protected].

Calendar coordinator: We need someone who will keep track of events where our candidates and campaign volunteers need to speak or hand out literature. The work can be done from home, largely through email.

Housing coordinator: Help place out-of-area campaign volunteers with volunteer hosts.


Quick, Easy and Free!

Endorse Team Richmond Now

As you know, 2014 is going to be a super important election here in Richmond, if we want to keep the progressive momentum going and keep building on the good things happening in recent years. You’ve probably noticed how Chevron is already spending tons of money on PR…

Here’s a free and easy way to show support for Team Richmond. Your endorsement is valuable and will make a difference! Please let us know if you endorse the Team Richmond candidates: Mike Parker for Mayor and Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Gayle McLaughlin for City Council.

Simply send a brief email to [email protected], with “endorse Team Richmond” in the subject line. Include your full name, city of residence, and any affiliation or title you would like to include (affiliation is for identification purposes only).

Thank you. It only takes a moment and will be greatly appreciated!


Misinformation from Chevron Canvassers

by Daniel Goodwin

Open Letter to Chevron

To [email protected]:

I'm a longtime homeowner, here in Richmond. On Monday afternoon, a canvasser wearing a Richmond Proud t-shirt and distributing cards bearing your email address introduced himself by saying he's working for FieldWorks "under a joint contract from the City of Richmond and Chevron" to educate voters about the refinery modernization project.

It seems unlikely that the City would be co-sponsoring a Chevron canvasser, so I immediately pressed him on this joint-contract claim: "You mean the City of Richmond is financially supporting this?"

"That's what they told us," the canvasser replied. This wasn't an offhand claim: it was the first thing he said, and he clarified that he was told to say it.

On Monday evening, I emailed inquiries about this to you, and to Lina Velasco, Senior Planner with the City of Richmond Planning Division. I've heard nothing back from you, but Velasco's response was quite prompt and informative: "The City of Richmond is not sponsoring Richmond Proud. I have followed up with Chevron and have asked them to investigate this issue so that misinformation is not being given."

The Richmond Proud website says "Almost everyone we’ve talked to has underscored the importance of sharing all the refinery modernization facts... All questions and comments are welcome." But the City is concerned about Chevron spreading "misinformation," not facts, and you ignore my questions.

Mike Parker, the mayoral candidate on the Team Richmond slate, has asked me to post an account of this incident online. So this is an open letter, and you have another chance to either answer or ignore my questions. Surely the canvassing firm Chevron hired knows with whom they signed a contract. Why would they deliberately mislead voters about this, on Chevron's behalf?


Team of Candidates for Richmond 2014 City Council will continue decade of progress under Mayor McLaughlin

 February 13, 2014 – Richmond, CA

Richmond is Better Now; Let’s Build on a Decade of Progress” is the theme promoted by a progressive team of candidates for Richmond City Council, announced today.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin (limited by City Charter to two consecutive terms as Mayor) will run for a City Council seat, along with Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, and Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez.  Mike Parker will seek the office of Mayor.

Nicknamed, “Team Richmond,” the four candidates are united in their commitment to continue and expand Richmond’s remarkable transformation during a decade of progressive policies spearheaded by McLaughlin.  The team is also dedicated to standing strong for Richmond residents in the City’s dealings with the Chevron Corporation, demanding safety, transparency and accountability from the oil giant as plans are negotiated for major repairs and a renewal project for the Chevron Richmond Refinery.

The four candidates support a modernization of the refinery so that the devastating explosion of August 6, 2012, never happens again.  The team calls for:  repairs and renovations that will take place soon to ensure community safety; a project that will provide jobs for Richmond residents; and a significant and measurable annual reduction of the pollution emitted from the refinery.

Long characterized by poverty, homicide, and industrial pollution, Richmond began a grassroots renaissance with McLaughlin’s election to the City Council in 2004.  Since then, policies and initiatives focused on sustainable growth, community health, income equity, and clean energy have gained Richmond national attention as a city willing to adopt bold and innovative solutions to chronic problems.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, now completing her second term as Richmond Mayor, will ask voters to elect her to the City Council.  During her tenure as Mayor, homicide rates have been cut by 66 percent; Lawrence Berkeley National Lab chose Richmond for its second campus; Chevron was pressured into agreeing to a $114 million tax settlement; and the City’s community survey shows residents are experiencing increased quality of life and City services.

Mike Parker, an educator and former industrial electrician in the automotive industry, is running for the office of Mayor.  A lead organizer of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Parker has a long history as an advocate for organized labor, civil rights, and other social justice issues. He is actively involved in efforts to stop foreclosures and reduce blight, and to set a livable minimum wage in Richmond.  Parker, an instructor in an electrical technologies program, serves on the Richmond Workforce Investment Board and has sought ways to provide Richmond residents with training for higher-skilled jobs.

Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles will seek a second term on the City Council.  She has led the City’s initiative to fight crime and violence by productively integrating residents released from incarceration.  Beckles’ “Ban the Box” ordinance prevents the City from disregarding applications for City employment because of previous incarceration.  Beckles also introduced the Richmond Municipal Identification Program, strongly supported by Police Chief Magnus as a tool to improve police-community interaction.  She fought discrimination and harassment of LGBT residents in the City Council chambers and elsewhere. 

Richmond Planning Commissioner Eduardo Martinez is running for City Council with a campaign sub-theme, “A City for Our Children.” A retired local elementary school teacher, Martinez is a long-time advocate for education and was a lead organizer for the March for Education in 2004.   He serves on the board of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, an interdenominational organization helping immigrants navigate the immigration process.  Martinez ran for City Council in 2012 and fell short of election by only 516 votes.

The four candidates have worked closely together for several years to build “One Richmond, A Better and Healthier Richmond,” a unified community of diverse populations, working together on the problems of economic inequality, crime, racism, and pollution.  They seek to organize community members to define their city’s destiny, countering the outsized influence of corporations, developers, and other entrenched special interests on the democratic process.

To underscore the importance of clean elections that are free of corporate influence, Parker, McLaughlin, Beckles, and Martinez have pledged not to accept any campaign contributions from corporations.  All four candidates will utilize a volunteer campaign team.  Individuals who are interested in volunteering may call:   (510) 709-4433.

An official “kick-off” event for Team Richmond will be scheduled during the summer of 2014 in Richmond.