Mountain View Voice

News - November 5, 2010

Abe-Koga campaign gets $8,000 boost from labor

by Daniel DeBolt

The final campaign finance disclosure reports are in, and local unions have together spent $8,000 on mailers in support of their favorite Mountain View City Council candidate, Margaret Abe-Koga.

Abe-Koga was surprised at the extent of the support she had received when contacted by the Voice the day before the election. The Service Employees International Union and the South Bay Labor Council (SBLC) reported spending a total of $8,000 on her behalf.

Because the funds were raised and spent by a political action committee, the expenses are independent of each candidate's campaign funds.

No other candidate has received such significant independent support from unions in recent elections, said longtime council member Mike Kasperzak.

The SEIU reported spending $5,000 to help Abe-Koga, mostly for printing and distributing a mailer in support of her re-election. In addition, the SBLC has spent $3,000 on a mailer that supports Margaret Abe-Koga and Measure A, which aims to provide health care for all children in the county, on the other side.

"She has a record of supporting policies that benefit working families," said Ben Field, chief of staff for the SBLC. "She's got a reputation for integrity and hard work. She is clearly the most qualified candidate for City Council."

Field said incumbents Jac Siegel and Ronit Bryant also went through the same "rigorous" selection process, but were not chosen to receive the group's support, which included help from volunteers who knocked on doors and made phone calls on Abe-Koga's behalf, Field said.

Opponent criticizes

One of Abe-Koga's opponents, Dan Waylonis, has railed against Abe-Koga and her fellow incumbents for allowing SBLC-affiliated city employee unions, such as the SEIU, to bargain for "unsustainable" pensions, health care and salaries that he says have put the city budget into the red.

"You start to feel like there's some 'I scratched your back, you scratch mine' kind of thing there," said Waylonis, whose only real campaign contribution was $500 from the Libertarian Party of California. He makes over $100,000 a year as a software engineer at Google.

Abe-Koga was compelled to defend her support of unions, which have come under fire in the election debates where city employee compensation is a top issue.

"Public employees didn't cause the recession," Abe-Koga said. She pointed to a study recently in the news that found that government employees make about the same as their counterparts in the private sector, including their controversial pensions and health care benefits.

Abe-Koga partly attributed her union support to her ability to listen.

"I really try hard to be accessible and listen to folks even though I might not always agree with everybody," Abe-Koga said. "I do support working people and working people with families. I think that's a good thing because most people are working and have families."

Kasperzak said he decided not to seek union support in his election bid two years ago in order to escape their influence when making budget cuts.

"Margaret comes from a more pro-union background, that's not a surprise," Kasperzak said. "I would say the unions want to make sure Margaret is elected to the council (because) almost every city employee union is going to go through negotiations in the next two years."

But Kasperzak added, "I'm not going to get on the bandwagon that says if somebody supports you are going to vote their way all the time. I don't believe that. I think Margaret is conscientious."

Range of supporters

Abe-Koga has campaign contributions from almost 200 donors, she said. She's the only candidate to receive support from Mountain View's firefighter and police unions, but she's also been supported financially by dozens of residents along with housing advocacy and environmental groups.

"I don't think I'm in the pocket of anyone when I have such a range of supporters," Abe-Koga said.

In keeping with Mountain View tradition, Abe-Koga and the five other candidates agreed to the city's $21,000 voluntary expenditure limit. Abe-Koga is the biggest fundraiser with $27,000 raised as of Oct. 26.

She is trailed by Siegel with $11,640 and Bryant with $9,741. Longtime resident Greg David and Google sales representative Aaron Jabbari both reported raising less than $1,000.

Abe-Koga's excess campaign funds can be used for certain expenses incurred as a City Council member or for a future election campaign. Mountain View council members have gone on to become county supervisors and state assembly members. Abe-Koga wouldn't say she wasn't going to pursue those options, but her network of supporters would certainly come in handy if she does.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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