The Importance of Keeping Benicia’s Election Fair

…And sunlighting what’s not
Kari Birdseye for Benicia City Council

As you may have heard, Valero’s Benicia Refinery admitted last Friday to sponsoring the unfair telephone “push poll” many Benicians have been responding to during the past month.

Benicia’s City Attorney shared this fact with the public in a letter to the polling companies’ attorney.  Valero General Manager Don Wilson did the right thing by disclosing Valero’s involvement.  However, City Attorney Heather McLaughlin stated in her letter “In order to avoid having to issue a subpoena, I would ask that you voluntarily provide a copy of the poll questions to me within the next 72 hours.”

Benicians who received the phone survey have reported biased lead-ins to questions, including “Kari Birdseye wants to shut down Valero, costing hundreds of jobs” and “She will bring radical left-wing politics to City Hall.”

Benicia City Council candidate Lionel Largaespada’s response suggested that the poll may not even have been biased: “I have heard many different opinions on how it was conducted – ranging from Steve’s claim that it is biased towards me, to residents who found it equally balanced, to others who thought it was negative-sounding towards me. As with most topics, people have differing reactions and take aways based on their own beliefs and opinions.” Mr. Largaespada’s statement aligns with attorneys of the polling companies by casting doubt on whether there was bias at all.  

In addition to asking for the actual questions used in the poll, the City Attorney has requested an itemized invoice showing the dates, times and number of calls made.  This request has been refused by the companies’ attorney.

Thanks to the efforts of Council member Tom Campbell for establishing Benicia’s Fair Campaign Ordinance back in 2008, Benicia has a regulation called Disclosure of Contributions and Expenditures in Candidate and Ballot Measure Elections.  This local law has helped keep our elections clean until now.  Unfortunately, attorneys with deep pockets are involved now and we may never know exactly what questions were asked in the poll.

More polls, paid for PACs against me, are continuing today and probably throughout the weeks leading up to the election.  Please learn more about my campaign through reputable sources like the website or by watching candidate forums like this one:
League of Women Voters / AAUW forum here.

Remember to vote on November 6th or send in your ballot, which should be arriving in your mailbox this week.  And if you haven’t visited my website yet, please stop by at