“Unbelievable” is how Laura Wells, Green Party gubernatorial candidate and North Oakland resident, described her arrest while trying to enter the California governor’s debate at Dominican University on Tuesday afternoon. Wells was handcuffed and charged with trespassing after attempting to gain admission to the debate hall using a ticket given to her by a stranger. Her arraignment is set for Election Day, November 2.
“I’ve never been arrested. I never wanted to be arrested,” said Wells, who was not invited to participate in the televised debate between the two leading candidates for California governor, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown.
Wells was at Dominican University protesting her exclusion from the debate. Wells says she neither planned to enter the debate nor become involved with the police. Tickets were not distributed to the four California gubernatorial candidates excluded from the debate, but, according to Wells, when a man she didn’t know offered her two extra tickets to view the debate from the audience, she accepted them. “We thought ‘OK great, we’ll go to the debate,’” said Wells. “I guess there was some fine print. I didn’t pay much attention to it.”
As a security measure, tickets to the debate were individually numbered and coded matching the name of the buyer to the ticketholder. But Wells and her campaign manager, Marnie Glickman, who accepted the other ticket, say they were unaware of that precaution. “There were no names on the ticket,” said Glickman. “I did not know that the ticket was non-transferable. We were planning on watching the debate like anyone else.”
Wells and Glickman used the tickets to cross the first line of security, but said they were stopped by a security officer at the doors of Angelico Hall and asked to present the tickets. “The only one they stopped was me,” said Wells. “At the gate they saw the tickets and they let us in. Then this security guard came up and apparently … he ID’d me as a candidate.”
According to a statement by the San Rafael Police Department, when Wells was asked to hand over her ticket she became combative and refused to leave. Department representatives did not return interview requests.
Glickman recalls being approached by plainclothes security officers. “A security guard came up to us and said, ‘Give me the ticket.’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You told me before that you didn’t have a ticket.’ I said, ‘I’ve never seen you before in my life.’ One guy walking next to me flashed me his badge and he was San Rafael Police Department. A uniformed security guard had Laura’s wrist. They walked us behind the building, then a patrol car drove up and then they arrested her. It was a citizen’s arrest by a private security guard.”
While Wells was being arrested, Glickman started running. “I was scared I would be arrested,” said Glickman. “I ran and leapt back over the stanchion. I don’t know why they didn’t arrest me.”
According to a statement by the San Rafael Police Department, Wells was taken into custody by San Rafael police officers and was later released and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.
Wells ran for California State Controller in 2002 and 2006. Her platform as a gubernatorial candidate includes restoring California’s jobs, stopping home foreclosures and reversing climate change. In an October 7 Angus Reid online poll—one of the few with specific polling data on Wells—she received 2 percent of the vote. Brown polled at 53 percent, with Whitman receiving 41 percent.
Wells says that upon winning the Green Party primary in June she was told that any candidate polling at 10 percent during the campaign would be invited to the debates. But Wells believes the polls are designed to favor the top two candidates. “People who were surveyed, they say, ‘Who are you in favor of, Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown?’ They don’t even pick ‘other,’ let alone Laura Wells, Green Party and the other three candidates,” she said.
But according to polling experts, phone surveys limit the number of candidates listed because it is difficult for a respondent to keep all the choices in mind. In addition, if a candidate is polling within the margin of error—typically close to 3 percent—a statistically significant measure is impossible. “We generally don’t go to that level of specificity,” said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. “If there is something going on in our surveys where someone is poling in double digit margins, we break out the individual candidates with a separate question.”
The latest Field poll, released September 23, does not list Laura Wells as a choice for California governor. The poll shows voter support for Whitman and Brown at 41 percent each with 18 percent of respondents choosing “undecided/other.”
The event at Dominican University was the third and final gubernatorial debate. Wells does not know if she will attempt to reschedule her arraignment date from Election Day, but she does know what she would have said had she been invited to debate Whitman and Brown. “I would talk about Prop. 13. They have lowered taxes in boom years and now we can’t get it back,” she said. “I’d have a few things to say. I’d have a hard time sticking to my time limit.”