About 30 sign-toting residents and activists assembled at City Hall Thursday to rail against what they say is a heavy handed attempt by Chevron Corp. to influence the Nov. 4 election.
They also announced their own new political action committee backing progressive candidates.
The residents raised banners and stood in front of a 10-foot sign stating, “Our Election is NOT FOR SALE,” while rallying against Chevron’s $3-million in campaign spending backing the oil company’s favored candidates for mayor and City Council.
“I have personally received between 20 and 30 mailers from Chevron candidates,” Richmond resident Leon Zhou said during the press conference, held by the newly-formed Richmond Working Families political action committee.
Political activist Edith Pastrano said this election is “crucial” as a majority of council seats are up for grabs.
“It’s ridiculous how persistent they are in spending that much money,” Pastrano said. She said that Chevron is promoting “bought and sold” candidates and attacking progressive candidates because “they are afraid” to face the real issues in Richmond.
Speakers at the press conference emphasized the need to address issues like creating job opportunities “that pay a living wage,” saving Doctor’s Medical Hospital, and increasing youth-empowerment programs. They also mentioned pressing concerns over affordable housing, clean air and safe streets.
Chevron, which operates a massive refinery in the city, has plunged millions into various campaign committees this year in an effort promote its favored candidates and undermine the candidacies of politicians who have been critical of the company’s local operations.
Zhou said that this election is “particularly important” because they have seen Richmond change for the better in recent years.
“But we all know that this is not enough,” Zhou said. He said that the change needs to continue and that he “fears” that Chevron-funded candidates cannot be accountable and “would not have the courage to stand up to a powerful corporation.”
The committee has been knocking on doors in recent days to spread the word. According to their fact sheet, they were able to meet 2,700 households and to call 4,800 voters just last week. Their aim is to reach more than 6,200 doors and thousands more through phone before Election Day.
Committee members said there is evidence of voter fatigue in the city, as residents have been bombarded with mailers, phone calls and commercials, mostly funded by Chevron’s campaign committee, Moving Forward.
“I have (had) a couple of doors slammed on my face,” Pastrano said.
Richmond Working Families political action committee was formed earlier this month by Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) Action, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021.
The independent expenditure committee has no coordination with candidates, and have raised about $50,000 from city workers, unions, nurses and concerned citizens, committee members said.
While Richmond Working Families is promoting progressive candidates, another committee named Richmond Working Families for Jobs 2014 has surfaced in recent days, promoting mostly Chevron-favored candidates.
“It’s really frustrating,” committee representative Amy Schur said. She said that a few days after filing their committee registration, the dubbed ‘Working Families’ committee “popped up.”
“It’s a tactic to confuse people,” Schur said. “I don’t know really who they represent.”
Not only do the two committees share a similar name, both have been promoting Jael Myrick for the 2-year council seat. Committee representatives said that they do not know whether Myrick has received Chevron funding. But Schur said that looking at his track record; Myrick has “consistently stood up” against big corporations and has been a strong proponent in raising minimum wage.
“In terms of how he walks or how he talks and what he’s voted for, he’s been with the Richmond’s low-and-moderate income communities,” Schur said.
The committee is supporting Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez and Myrick for City Council and Tom Butt for Mayor.