News - October 20, 2010

Election 2010: Tea Party for three Menlo candidates

by Sandy Brundage

As the Nov. 2 elections approach, the hype flies fast and furious, and so do the innuendos.

Former Menlo Park mayor and staunch Democrat Gail Slocum sent an e-mail on Oct. 9 urging supporters to donate time or money to Rich Cline, Kirsten Keith and Heyward Robinson, the three council candidates endorsed by the San Mateo County Democratic Party.

Nothing unusual there. What caught the eye, however, were two sentences buried within the 1,054-word e-mail:

"Rich, Kirsten and Heyward are all endorsed by the Democratic Party and Sierra Club, as well as many local business and sustainable development leaders. The other three candidates — two of whom are very well funded — have all been endorsed by the local chapter of the 'Tea Party.'"

Ms. Slocum didn't name the "other three candidates," but obviously meant Chuck Bernstein, Peter Ohtaki and Russell Peterson.

"I mentioned it in my e-mail because Democrats are very concerned nationwide about the Tea Party movement and I believe they deserve to know there is an active chapter in our county that endorsed in our own Council race," Ms. Slocum told The Almanac.

"If knowing about this Tea Party endorsement helps get otherwise complacent people off their butts and a little more involved in this City Council race and longer term in the city and beyond, I see that as a good thing."

Candidates normally parade their endorsements on their campaign websites, but in this case, Chuck Bernstein, Peter Ohtaki and Russell Peterson all said they had no idea that the Tea Party had endorsed them.

"That is such a smear," said Mr. Bernstein, referring to Ms. Slocum's e-mail. "It makes me angry to see Gail doing that because the Tea Party has such a bad reputation around here. I didn't seek it out, I'm not affiliated with the Tea Party. I'm not going to print that endorsement on any of my campaign literature."

Mr. Peterson said he would, however, accept the endorsement, being neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but understanding the nationwide frustration that spawned the Tea Party movement.

"We have important issues and rather than toss things into the Bay I decided to run for council," he said. "As hard as campaigning might be, it's slightly easier than a revolution."

As for Mr. Ohtaki, he said he'd probably accept the endorsement. "I haven't given it much thought, to be perfectly honest. I get endorsements every day and I'm grateful for everyone who endorses me of every political stripe."

According to the MyLiberty website, the group supports limited government and fiscal responsibility, as well as ending affirmative action, closing the United States borders, flat-rate taxation, and using profiling to prevent terrorist attacks.

Its goal of "slaying the public employee pension monster" probably falls under fiscal responsibility, and might explain the endorsement choices, since all three men support Measure L, a pension reform initiative on the November ballot.

MyLiberty director Leonard Stone confirmed that the group didn't contact any Menlo Park candidates. He told The Almanac that these were recommendations, not endorsements, explaining that recommendations don't include advertising and other assistance. However, the group's events page shows upcoming "phone banking to win!" sessions and precinct walking related to the November elections.

Mr. Stone said the Menlo Park candidates were not in the phone queue, to the best of his knowledge, but "individuals who also are affiliated with our group may call of their own volition."


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