The Campaign Column: Polling problems

The Campaign Column: Polling problems

Michele Ellson

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Campaign Column, our new campaign blog. This is where we’ll offer inside ball on the November 2014 campaign for all you political junkies. You can send your questions, suggestions and tips to me at throughout the campaign season; confidentiality guaranteed. Here’s what we have this week.


Readers are writing to complain about a political poll they're receiving that they say is testing negative campaign messages targeting former councilman (and current council candidate) Frank Matarrese. They say questions about other candidates – incumbent Councilman Stewart Chen and first-time council candidate Jim Oddie, an attorney and staffer for Assemblyman Rob Bonta – were neutral. But readers said the callers also asked whether they’d be more or less likely to vote for Matarrese if they knew he voted to hire former Fire Chief David Kapler, who was forced to resign from his job after firefighters snapped photos of him filling a personal vehicle with the city’s gas. The poll takers also claimed Matarrese had voted against funding water rescue training and that the lack of training led to the death of a man – presumably Raymond Zack, the man who died in the waters off Crown Beach on Memorial Day 2011 while more than a dozen firefighters and police watched.

(For the record: Minutes for City Council meetings held between the April 2007 appointment of an interim chief and Kapler’s hiring the following November don’t show a council vote on hiring him, and Assistant City Attorney Alex Nguyen confirmed that the city manager, and not the council, would hire for that position; the fire department did reportedly have the money for the training they would have needed to go into the water to rescue Zack.)

Frustrated call recipients say they asked callers dialing from an Oregon call center who said they were from Bernett Research who had paid for the poll, but were unable to get an answer. One reader who took the 20-minute poll said he was told it had been ordered up by “EMC.” EMC Research is a market and opinion research firm with an office in Oakland that’s been used by local political types during past races.

A rep for Boston-based Bernett Research called us back – at the owner’s behest – to let us know he couldn’t say who hired his firm, confirm whether Bernett conducted the poll or give us a copy of the questions; he also asked us not to use his name in the story (in addition to people who e-mailed about the poll, several of our Facebook fans confirmed that they, too, received a call from Bernett). EMC president Alex Evans didn’t respond to our call for comment. So far, no one has owned up to paying for the poll.

Whoever paid for the poll will be required to file a campaign finance statement listing the expense, but those aren’t due in until October 6, the first day absentee voters can submit ballots. We’ll be combing through those reports the minute they’re available, though. So stay tuned.

Matarrese, meanwhile, confirmed that he, too has been hearing about the poll questions.

“Big money is sure coming in soon,” he said. “Sounds like a smear campaign.”


The candidate’s names may not even all be in yet (check back with us at the end of next week), but fundraising for those who have declared is in full swing. Alameda’s firefighter and teacher’s unions and PK Consultants, a local firm run by Barbara Price, hosted a “Taco Tuesday” fundraiser for Gilmore on June 10; the teachers and firefighters feted Chen with a luau on July 10 that was attended by local politicos and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Facebook photos forwarded by a tipster show.

Sponsorships for Chen’s fundraising shindig ranged from $100 to $2,000, a flyer for the event says, though we won’t know how much money was collected until October.

The firefighter’s union, incidentally, announced its endorsements Tuesday – nine days before the August 7 deadline to file candidate papers. They’re pulling for Gilmore for mayor, and Chen and Oddie for City Council.

So far, Matarrese is the only other candidate running for one of the two open council seats. Leland Traiman, who has filed papers to run for a school board seat, has also pulled papers to run for mayor.


Submitted by Richard Bangert on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

When shadowy and unaccountable political operatives run negative telephone polls or send out negative mailers targeting one candidate in order to help another candidate(s), there is only one way to respond: Do not vote for the candidate(s) the creeps are trying to help. There should be no dividends for anyone investing in smear.

Submitted by Mike McMahon on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

For BART District 4 representing Alameda, Lena Tam, Robert Raburn and Jeffrey Haw have pulled papers. Lena Tam has filed papers.

Submitted by Cynthia (not verified) on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

Earlier in July I participated in a phone survey about Bart district 4. It was very neutral toward Lena Tam and very biased against Robert Rayburn. I asked who was behind it and they couldn't tell me, but they did admit that it was very biased and that other respondents had also said so.
Frank Matarrese is not the only candidate being smeared!
It is a shame and a crime that dirty politics have come to Alameda.

Submitted by Chuck M (not verified) on Wed, Jul 30, 2014

Interestingly, my neighbor participated in a phone survey in mid-July that seemed like a push poll to get voters to support Raburn, and was negative about Lena Tam.

Submitted by Judith Arrants (not verified) on Thu, Sep 11, 2014

Please be careful what you read and believe especially when it comes from Mr. Oddie. Mr. Mattarese is a man of principles...hard to find in today's world.

Submitted by H. Nobler (not verified) on Sat, Sep 13, 2014

Do we really need anyone in the Alameda City Council who
was arrested in 1993 on charges that he cheated insurance companies of as much as $1 million by doing fraudulent chiropractic? I realize he's wanted by others in city politics, presumably for agreeing with them and not making them answer hard questions. But that's exactly the opposite of what we should have, and we have no business voting for someone who used his professional expertise to line his pockets. There's plenty of that going around.

Submitted by not 4 Bonta (not verified) on Tue, Sep 16, 2014

All I need to know about Oddie is that he worked for Rob Bonta, the BART Union apologist who cares only about his own campaign coffers, with no regards to the citizens of Alameda he was supposed to represent. No votes for either of these corrupt politicians, ever.

Submitted by Karen (not verified) on Tue, Sep 16, 2014

The City of Alameda Democratic Club did not endorse Stewart Chen . If you go to the Democratic office which will open on 9/23 you will be misled. They imply an endorsement by the city club when in reality the endorsement came from the County of Alameda Central Committee, made up of members from all over the county. Jim Oddie is on the committee and I think he is the only city of Alameda member. Because the city of Alameda club gets some funding from the Central Committee they get to dictate whose literature may be available in local club offices. So even if our local club endorses someone but the central committee endorses someone else, we may not show any information about the person who was endorsed locally. Four years ago, the city club endorsed Robert Raburn for BART board and the central committee endorsed Carol Brown. We could not have Robert's literature in the office. I was in charge of the headquarters four years ago so I know from whence I speak. I just love the fact that someone convicted of insurance fraud is endorsed by the Central Committee and the local headquarters must display Chen's campaign literature and may not display Frank Matarrese's literature, even through Frank received more votes at the local endorsement meeting. I know it was 20 years ago but Chen is still blaming his small chiropractic office staff and still maintains he was not responsible. At the time of his conviction as part of an insurance fraud ring John Garimendi was insurance commissioner, and he was great. So here we have Chen basically saying everyone in the ring was guilty except him.