The Campaign Column: Polling problems
The Campaign Column: Polling problems
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 email@example.com 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.