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County Board of Supervisors interviews candidates for vacant District 2 seat

on May 30, 2012

Four candidates went before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon to argue their cases for why they should be named the interim supervisor for District 2 after Nadia Lockyer stepped down. Now the four remaining board members have a week to decide who will join them for the next five months before standing for election this November.

Newark City Councilmember Ana Apodaca, Union City Mayor Mark Green, businesswoman and political novice Cheryl Grant, and former Union City Councilmember Richard Valle are all vying for the seat, which represents Hayward, Newark and Union City, and parts of Fremont and Sunol. Each was interviewed by the county supervisors for up to 45 minutes on Tuesday.

The District 2 seat was vacated in April by Nadia Lockyer, the wife of State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who was elected in 2010 and resigned amidst allegations of drug use and having an affair. The board now must find someone to appoint to the seat until the November election. There was a two-week application window for District 2 residents that closed May 15. The board then narrowed the field from eight candidates to five finalists last week. Gail Steele, a former supervisor for 18 years who retired in 2011, withdrew from the race before Tuesday’s interviews. The board now has until June 19 to select a supervisor.

Apodaca, the Newark vice mayor, appeared to be the favorite of the remaining four going in to Tuesday’s interviews; she was the lone candidate to receive a vote from each supervisor last week. During last week’s vote, supervisors had the opportunity to vote for more than one candidate, and Green, Grant and Valle all received at least one vote from a supervisor.

On Tuesday, each candidate was asked the same broad questions about decisions they’d make in office, such as how to close the county’s $88 million budget gap, what they’d cut from the budget first, how they view the county’s role as a “safety net” provider of social services, and whether taxes should be increased in place of budget cutbacks. The candidates also faced questions specifically aimed at them about their political ambitions.

By the luck of the draw, Apodaca was chosen to go last. She showed her knowledge of each district in the county by mentioning redevelopment projects in Supervisor Nate Miley’s district (District 4). Apodaca ran for mayor of Newark in 2011 and narrowly lost; she said she would have strong backing from that city and other parts of the district in a November election for a supervisor seat if selected.

“I’ve worked in this area for 15 years, it’s a community I know well,” Apodaca said. “I went to high school in Hayward, I went to college in Hayward. I know it very well, as well as Union City and Fremont. I feel very strongly that I’ll be competitive in that race.”

Green, a five-term mayor of Union City, touted his knowledge of the district, having lived there for 40 years, and also spoke in favor of passing Measure B in November, which would double the funds for county transportation projects. “I think this is a crucial area,” Green said.

Green was also asked by Miley point-blank if he was “office shopping” and looking for an  Green is also running for the State Assembly from District 20, and will be on the ballot for Tuesday’s June primary, the same day the supervisors will be making their decision.

Green responded that he isn’t “office shopping” and whether he’s elected to the assembly shouldn’t affect his seat on the board, because he’ll still be able to serve for the remainder of the year before taking office with the state assembly, should he be elected to that position. Green said if he advances in the assembly race next week he won’t run for re-election for the supervisor seat in November.

“I’d still like to be up here, and I think I’ll do a great job for you for the next five months if I am appointed here,” Green said.

Grant, a technology sales executive and community activist, struggled through her interview with the board— with a few long pauses before answering, and short answers for other questions. She answered a question from Miley about what services or programs she’d cut to help close the $88 million deficit by saying it was “critical” to move away from cuts and focus on bringing in more revenue. When Miley responded that supervisors had already searched for ways to earn more money, and Grant needed to select something to cut, Grant said, “So, with that question, I take it I need to cut something.” The battery in Grant’s microphone then cut off, and she said, “I guess it didn’t want me to answer that question, either.”

Valle is a seasoned politician, having served 12 years on the city council for Union City. He is also the founder of Tri-CED Community Recycling, a recycling center in Union City. Valle introduced himself as a longtime District 2 resident, having grown up, attended high school and lived in the area for more than 50 years.

Valle highlighted his skills as a consensus builder, and said he’d want to “bring all 9,000 [county] employees into the room” when discussing what to cut to close the budget gap. Valle is also running for mayor of Union City, but said he would drop out of the race and focus on winning the District 2 supervisors’ seat in November if the board votes to confirm him next week.

In answering a question about what he’d do in his first 30 days of office, Valle said he’d done “considerable” research on the county budget and was prepared to start the job immediately. But that’s not what the soft-spoken Valle said he’d do right away if he got the job.

“I think one of the first things I’m going to do is go my Buddhist center and do a lot more chanting,” he said. “And give thanks.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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