The race to succeed Don Perata as the Senator from California’s 9th State Senate District—already one of the feistiest of the campaign season—got a little testier last week as former 16th District Assemblymem-ber Wilma Chan traded direct mail and e-mail charges with her opponent, current 14th District Assembly-member Loni Hancock.
Chan, who held a $100,000 lead in cash on hand ($507,000 to $406,000) at the last campaign finance reporting date a month ago, has been on the offensive against Hancock. Earlier this month, Chan filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, charging that Hancock has illegally used her assemblymember officeholder account to pay a campaign staff member. Hancock has denied the charge.
This week, in an e-mail to supporters, Hancock took issue with a mass surface mailing sent out by Chan, a mailing Hancock characterizes as a “classic hit piece.”
In the Chan mailing, which is posted with no date on Hancock’s website, Chan seeks to separate herself from Hancock, saying, “Many have said Loni and I are alike. … While Loni and I have similar voting records, I have consistently taken on tough issues and have been successful in passing important legislation while Loni has not. I have also been willing to take risks for many progressive causes while Loni hasn’t.”
Chan also charges that “In six years in the legislature, Loni did not pass one piece of major environmental protection.”
After giving what she calls “a few examples” of her own progressive record, Chan then criticizes Hancock for promising to run a “clean money” campaign while at the same time refusing to join Chan in rejecting funds that “allow special interests to funnel money to political campaigns while avoiding campaign limits and donation disclosure rules.”
In an e-mail rebuttal sent out early this week, Hancock calls Chan’s “clean money” pledge a “cheap publicity stunt,” saying that Hancock has already “signed the official California pledge (Prop 34) agreeing to limit spending in her Senate campaign to $724,000,” while Chan has not.
While the charge that Hancock should have signed Chan’s money pledge is a matter of opinion and open to the interpretation of the individual voter, it is difficult to determine what the Chan campaign means by Hancock not passing “one piece of major environmental protection” during her six years in the legislature. Perhaps “major” is the operative word.
In her e-mail rebuttal, Hancock cites several environmental laws which she says she has “successfully passed,” including AB1296 (establishment of the San Francisco Bay Water Trail, 2005, in which Hancock is listed as the main author), AB442 (strengthening toxic site remediation), AB2960 (continuation of volunteer program to improve parks and restore creeks and waterways), and AB1873 (expanding and making permanent Recycling Market Development Zones to develop products and businesses using recycled materials).
While neither Hancock nor Chan have the blustering, larger-than-life presence and personality of Don Perata, Chan’s main problem in the race to succeed Perata is an issue of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Hancock still serves in the Assembly and will do so until the end of this year, and is able to use that position to keep in the public eye, both speaking out in the press on various pieces of legislation and holding public conferences on major issues in Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, the key cities in the district.
For her part, Chan had a meteoric rise in the legislature after her 2000 election to the assembly, serving as the Assembly Majority Whip in 2001-02 and the Assembly Majority Leader in 2003-04.
Chan was very much in the local headlines in those years, and was gearing up for a run for the State Senate in 2004 when Perata’s original term was scheduled to run out. When Perata won a favorable Superior Court judge’s ruling to serve another term, Chan was left floundering and, for the two years between 2006 and 2008, was without a public forum to keep in the public eye.