There was really only one stand-out candidate at the Social Justice Forum held this month at the Napa County Library that addressed issues such as campaign finance limits, sustainable ground water, community banks, healthcare delivery, land-use impacts on climate change, and more. The stand-out candidate was Amber Manfree, who is running against the incumbent, Alfredo Pedroza, in District 4.
Pedroza applied typical political spin to all of his responses, which, in several cases, failed to address the actual question asked. For example, he diverted a question about climate change and land use to one all about traffic.
Manfree, a geographer and watershed specialist, was the only candidate in the room who brought the conversation back to land use and its impacts on climate change and to express how important public policy is in climate mitigation, as opposed to what kind of car you drive or can afford to purchase. For that welcome answer, she received spontaneous applause from the audience.
But the real slippery slope was Pedroza’s response to a question about campaign contribution limits. When asked if he would voluntarily place any limits on contributions, he said he would limit individual contributions to $5,000.
So, does that mean he will be refunding people like Craig Hall (Hall Wines and Walt Ranch), who, as of June 30, 2019, had already donated $10,000 to Pedroza’s campaign, even though, at the time, Pedroza didn’t even have a challenger? (That does make one wonder what Hall was expecting for his $10,000 and what Pedroza needed it for.)
Pedroza also didn’t say if he would lump donations from V. Sattui Winery and Castello Di Amarosa together as a single donation from Dario Sattui. Another slippery slope.
Does the self-imposed $5,000 limit also mean Pedroza will refuse any additional donations from Luna Vineyards ($5,500), Krupp Brothers LLC, Peter Read of Read Investments, Betty Woolls of Woolls Ranch Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Charles Wagner of Caymus Vineyards, and James Dyke of Mira Winery who each, as of June 30, 2019, had already donated $5,000 to Pedroza’s campaign?
What about those who might be double-dipping? Those who contribute as individuals but might also contribute indirectly via a Political Action Committee, or PAC?
It also raises the question: how many of the people, the residents, who actually live in District 4 have a spare $5,000 to donate to his campaign? And if they can’t or don’t, will he actually listen to their concerns when making important policy decisions that may impact their lives in a negative way and take action that supports them?
And will he refuse to take donations from individuals who don’t even live in Napa County full-time?
But in the end, it is a total Nothing-Burger.
As of June 30, 2019, long before anyone even knew there would be a challenger, Pedroza’s campaign war chest already had a cash balance of $235,903. He could refuse any and all additional contributions and he would still have plenty of money at his disposal to mount an extremely well-funded campaign against any challenger. And where did all that money come from?
This is not how democracy is supposed to work.
So, when you cast your vote in the coming election you should ask yourself who you want representing you. An incumbent with a massive war chest full of campaign contributions from very wealthy people attempting to influence his decisions?
Or would you rather be represented by a candidate who is not under the pervasive influence of hundreds of thousands dollars in campaign contributions and who is committed to representing the people who actually live and work in District 4?
If so, vote for Amber Manfree in the coming election.
Elaine de Man
Editor's Note: This item has been modified to reflect the fact that Pedroza has faced a contested election before and to correct wording in several spots.
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