AFFAIRS DON’T DOOM POLITICIANS BUT COVERUPS DO

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According to media accounts so far, San Francisco Ethics Commission executive director John St. Croix has not received any allegations of wrongdoing regarding the Supervisor John Avalos relationship with Raquel Redondiez, his Filipina American aide now on leave and seeking work elsewhere. The affair was lawful as long as she received no favoritism from Avalos. However, the city employee handbook advised supervisors and managers to avoid any appearance of favoritism. Paradoxically, the onus fell on Redondiez to disclose it to her boss and paramour and she’s ended up on unpaid leave. Meanwhile, Avalos stays on the job paid to represent SF’s second largest Asian Pacific American (APA) supervisor district (51% with sizeable Filipino and Chinese American communities according to 2010 US Census in Excelsior, Crocker Amazon, OMI, Mission Terrace, Outer Mission). The largest APA population is Katy Tang’s District 4 (59% Sunset)…
Supervisor John Avalos

Supervisor John Avalos

 
BLOWING THE WHISTLE: As of July 22, the issue has faded from the news. Avalos was the only one talking about the affair, although in generalities – the apology, confession, ending of the affair and declaration his aide should find work outside his office. No one else has publicly talked – not Redondiez or potential witnesses who could verify or contradict Avalos. Not aides Frances HsiehJeffrey PollockBeth Rubenstein, past or present interns or even Avalos’ estranged wife Karen Zapata.…Her continuing silence will be a sign of smoke from an ethical fire. If Zapata came out swinging for her spouse like Eliana Lopez did in downplaying Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s 2012 domestic violence conviction, Avalos could accelerate the road to political rehabilitation… However, it’s not going to be the affair that dooms Avalos. It will be a lie, cover up that got Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon in trouble…
JOB PROSPECTS: How silent will Redondiez remain as she looks for a job after leaving her $95,000 salary.  Job prospects will be limited given recent publicity about the liaison. In the tell all June Vanity FairMonica Lewinsky who engaged in an affair with Clinton hadn’t found a personal relationship or steady employment despite graduating from the renowned London School of Economics…Four options for Redondiez: continued unpaid leave that started May 28, returning to the office (out of the question), resigning or being fired (political suicide for Avalos). Any of these options loosens a few tongues triggering a complaint and investigation for the Ethics Commission or City Attorney Dennis Herrera….
RECOUNT GOOD FOR BETTY YEE: The very obscure Controller’s race certainly used a good soap opera. With third place Democrat and Assembly Speaker John Perez calling off the recount, second place winner and Democrat Betty Yee got additional free publicity as she ramps up for her run against GOP opponent in Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin….Yee, who won by 481 votes, needed the free publicity to raise money and attract voter support. In the two weeks before the June 3 primary, Yee was low on gas. She had $116,188 in the piggy bank as of May 17, having spent $591,388 since Jan. 1. Perez had $1,843,300 in the kitty, having spent $837,553 since New Year’s and spurring question – what if he spent a few dollars more in his race? Meanwhile, Swearengin burned thru $330,350 this year and had $70,197 as of May 17
State Board of Equalization member Betty Yee

State Board of Equalization member Betty Yee

ROSE GARDEN STRATEGY: Ro Khanna campaign, backed by Silicon Valley tech titans had burned thru millions, leaving $629,000 in cash as of June 30. He should be throwing fits. Congressman Mike Honda’s now leading with $1.06 million won’t give the time of day for debate let alone multiple debates. It didn’t help Khanna got thumped by Honda, 48% to 28% on Election Day, June 3. The congressman’s reply – he couldn’t fit it in his schedule. No wonder, he has two full-time jobs paid to represent the 17th district and unpaid to campaign for re-election …Old axiom is if you’re ahead in the polls, no point in giving free airtime to your opponent when internal and independent polls give you a  big lead over the rival….Take the case of US Senator Dianne Feinstein in 2000. Ahead in the polls she did not debate Republican and former Silicon Valley Congressman and Republican Tom Campbell (who once held Honda’s seat) until a late Sunday afternoon (when no one is watching) two weeks before the November election. The former SF Mayor Feinstein just couldn’t fit Campbell into her busy work and campaign schedule to debate Campbell. Honda by avoiding tete-a-tete confrontations is running out the campaign clock, appearing “on the job” representing his constituents and forcing Khanna to burn thru his once substantial war chest….
OUSTER IS HARD ROAD: Even if someone files a complaint against Supervisor Avalos over his affair, City Hall will have to think long and hard about repeating potential nine-month ordeal like the 2012 attempted ouster of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi over a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction. The road to ousting Avalos is a major challenge. Mayor Ed Lee suspended Mirkarimi without pay and ordered the SF Ethics Commission to investigate and recommend whether misconduct occurred and whether the Board of Supervisors should remove the Sheriff from office. The Board fell two votes short of ousting him on a 7-4 vote. All sides emerged bloody out of the Mirkarimi fight. Progressives saved Mirkarimi’s hide but lost a leading mayoral candidate. The Mayor (a partial winner in this) didn’t remove Mirkarimi but knocked him out as a mayoral rival in 2015. Women like the SF Commission on the Status of Women (directed by school board member Emily Murase and Commissioner Julie Soo) on the other hand could not oust a public official on a domestic violence charge while two female legislators (Jane Kim and Christina Olague) spurned them. Mirkarimi survived and has been undergoing a political makeover that has allowed him to at least finish his first term and line himself up to run for a second term next year.…
SF POLITICAL CULTURE: Another consideration that favors Avalos, voters have forgiven or tolerated apologetic SF elected officials when it involves adultery, infidelity, domestic violence and similar issues. The City and powers-that-be have gone as far as elevating Mayor Gavin Newsom to Lt. Governor in 2010 after his 2005 affair with an aide…However, residents have drawn the line when it comes to officials abusing their power for material gain like bribery. Supervisor Ed Jew of District 4 (Sunset) was forced out and served prison time for bribery and lying about his SF residency….State Senator Leland Yee best illustrates how far residents will go. Voters elected Yee to School Board, Supervisor and State Assembly while dismissing incidents like 1992 Hawai`i shoplifting or being stopped in 1999 for driving in a red light district. For a 2006 State Senate seat and despite various allegations, Yee easily defeated Mike Nevin, a former 27-year SF police officer and bodyguard to SF Mayor Joe Alioto.  However, this year, the State Senate suspended Yee as a state senator after being indicted for bribery and arms dealing…
RUN OR RUNAWAY: Pursuing Avalos over his affair might make him a martyr for progressives who could resuscitate his prospects and rally around him as they have for Sheriff Mirkarimi. The Supervisor might have been a leading progressive candidate to run against Mayor Ed Lee. In 2011, Avalos lost to Lee, 59% to 40%, which makes the odds unfavorable for success in 2015….
 
MISS ME?: Email Samson Wong at potsticker@prodigy.net and  follow him at Twitter @SFPotstickers

About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.