What Really Happened

For decades, Brentwood has suffered from a reputation among other Bay Area cities as a place where silly things happen at the city council level because most residents aren't paying attention.  It doesn't help that our mayor runs around dressed as a turkey -- he got elected four (4) times in a row over a sixteen (16) year period.  Now we have a new one who looks good in a tie -- he receives the largest donations from the most corrupt developer on the planet.  Most people were surprised when Measure L was defeated by an overwhelming 71 percent of the voters in 2019.  So for Election  2020, the question was which Brentwood would show up: old, tired, sleepyheads . . . or possibly a new level of citizen involvement?  As a recent candidate for mayor, I was hedging my prediction on the latter.   The election results suggest an overall lack of engagement among local voters who are not generally well informed.  Our new mayor got the same percentage of votes as those who voted Yes on Measure L.   

 

A vote for Benjamin Kellogg was a no brainer yet he lost.  Based on the resounding defeat of Measure L, District 1 had a clearly superior candidate who barely won.  For mayor, the two pro-growth incumbents garnered nearly 57 percent.  For my part, I take full responsibility for miscalculating my campaign strategy of no election signs, advertising, or mailers.     It never entered my mind that a ratio of only   1 in 20  registered voters would visit my primary website listed at the top of the Voter Information Guide (mailed to every voter).  About 40,000 registered voters in Brentwood, and only 2,105 bothered to visit.  This seems to indicate people are okay with not taking the time (or maybe not having the time) to get informed.  Anybody commuting to a job every day would have this as a real challenge.  My entire strategy was built upon the belief that most voters would see this website.  Without knowing it, I never had a chance.  I often hear people saying how important it is for everyone to vote.  Personally, I think you shouldn't vote if you don't know what you're doing.  I say this a bit tongue in cheek, and also truthfully. 

 

My candidacy was an “experiment” to determine if I could be elected by intelligent voters who cared enough to simply read my website (the same basic strategy I used in 1998 to get elected with a newsletter distributed to every home in Brentwood).  I spent many hours putting together a strong website for 2020.  A big reason for my candidacy was also to educate the electorate.  I did not wish to clutter the landscape with election signs nor rely on advertising and mailers.  I expected most voters would visit the website, and vote accordingly.  Based on the daily and weekly feedback received, I’m quite certain most people who saw the website voted for me.  I spent countless hours, virtually every day, communicating with residents, and answering a high volume of questions with oodles of positive feedback.  Many people said their entire families had my vote. 

 

I was ahead in the unofficial social media polls where people actually read what is written to become reasonably well informed.  I had written many informative articles.  However, beginning in early to mid October, and continuing into Halloween, I noticed a problem with a relatively low percentage of folks visiting my primary website.   I mentioned it to some associates who said stuff like: “don’t worry, you’re going to win . . . people are not stupid.”   Others figured people were just distracted with their own personal and family situations especially dealing with an environment of COVID-19.   Sad but true: Brentwood is a bedroom community filled with just enough uninspired voters who are perfectly content to support incumbents who offer nothing resembling leadership or a creative approach;  Band-aid solutions, business as usual, and we'll be fffffffine!  (this describes the self proclaimed "Voice of the People" to a T) 

Brentwood remains a city where incumbents are unduly influenced by developers and other special interest money.  Incumbents typically get the most votes . . . by spending the most . . . to spread misinformation.  I never even considered that most voters would fail to see the website, let alone such an absurdly low 5 percent (no coincidence that it's the same percentage of votes that I carried: 5.41% with 1700 votes).  Distracted, worried, overwhelmed, lazy, or perhaps just too busy with other things.  In retrospect, I wouldn’t have done anything different.  My reasons for running always anticipated a majority of fairly well informed voters, and a high level of community engagement.  The numbers suggest otherwise.   It appears up to half the voters didn't research, and were simply fooled.  Without a clear or genuine message, some candidates began sounding more like Steve Young than Steve.  I was told over and over by most anyone visiting:  "if people see the website, you will win."  The difference between myself and the other candidates was that obvious!       I just needed voters to look.