Decision 2010: Flier follies
City Council candidate Adam Gillitt’s simmering beef with the Alameda Democratic Club came to a head at this weekend’s Webster Street Jam, with a confrontation between Gillitt and one of the club’s elderly volunteers that led to police being contacted. No charges are being filed; police said the volunteer told them she plans to complain to the Democratic Party.
Last week, Gillitt sent out a press release accusing the club of excluding him from their endorsement process because he didn’t get a copy of the club’s candidate questionnaire and candidate forum invite until shortly before the deadline to submit it had passed. The club’s reps said they made a mistake and that they offered to correct it by giving Gillitt more time to complete the questionnaire, and that they told him they would take steps to ensure their members received his responses. (They added that mayoral candidate Marie Gilmore also didn’t get the questionnaire.) But Gillitt – who said he will attend tonight’s candidate forum “under protest” because he thinks the club’s endorsements have already been decided – said he thinks the omission was deliberate.
“This is another of the ‘mistakes’ made in civic leadership and it was designed to keep the voice of the citizen out of Alameda city government,” Gillitt said.
Fast forward to Webster Street on Sunday afternoon, where Florence Hofmann was manning the club’s voter registration table. When Gillitt saw that fliers he said had previously won permission to place on the table were gone, he demanded to know why they had been removed, he and others said. What followed was a confrontation between Gillitt and Hofmann, who is 78 and wheelchair-bound, that was heated enough to draw bystanders who sought to break it up and eventually, police and paramedics, according to police, bystanders and a written statement from Hoffman that the club sent to reporters (she could not be reached for further comment).
In the statement, Hofmann said that Gillitt accused her of moving his campaign fliers and that when she went to give them back to him, he “started to scream” and grabbed her wrist. (Gillitt said he “inadvertently touched her hand” and accused Hofmann of becoming hysterical when she couldn’t explain why his fliers had been moved; bystanders said that both were shouting.) From Hofmann’s statement:
Florence said she “didn’t move his literature” and she told him to “take his literature and leave.” Florence tried to give his literature back to him. The literature was in her hand and she tried to give it back to him when Gillitt started to scream and grab Florence’s left wrist – and held on to it for several seconds before he let go. Florence said Gillitt told her she “moved his material.” He was screaming at Florence over several minutes. Then he called her a “liar” and Florence said she was “not lying.” He wanted to know “who could have moved it.” Florence said she “didn’t know.”
John Piziali, a former Planning Board member who was working the event, said he was asked by a bystander to come to Hofmann’s aid, and that Jam volunteers worked to calm everyone down until police arrived. Paramedics were also called to attend to Hofmann because she was so shaken by the incident, the local Democratic Club’s reps said.
Gillitt said he intended no malice toward the woman and that he was only advocating for what he believed was his right to have his candidacy promoted alongside others whose materials were on Hofmann’s table.
“If she is fit to deny me my First Amendment rights, and she is fit to serve in public and serve the needs of the City of Alameda Democratic Club, then she is as fit as any other member of the public,” Gillitt said. “I am sorry things got out of hand. I am sorry she got hysterical. I am sorry she tried to deny my First Amendment rights. And I am sorry she got upset.”
The club’s reps, though, said Gillitt – who described himself as a lifelong Democrat but is not a member of the club – didn’t have the right to leave his materials on their table.
“Even if Mr. Gillitt’s complaints were not misguided, there is absolutely no excuse for screaming at, grabbing and terrorizing a person, especially an 80-year old, wheelchair-bound senior who has spent much of the last year in a convalescent home, to the point that outside observers need to call the police,” the club’s co-vice president of programs, John Knox White, said.
Incidentally, the club’s candidate forum – which will include hopefuls in the races for mayor, City Council, Alameda’s Board of Education and Health Care District Board, AC Transit and BART boards – will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at Alameda Hospital, 2070 Clinton Avenue.
Fora, fawning: Speaking of candidate forums, a whole slew of groups are offering you opportunities to hear candidates for City Council, the mayor’s race, school board and more in the weeks heading up to the November election. In addition to tonight’s Democratic Club drive-by, the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society is hosting a forum (focused on preservation questions) on September 23; the Alameda Education Foundation and PTA Council are slated to hold others in October, as is the Alameda Chamber of Commerce. And the local League of Women Voters is hosting a series of four forums that will include candidates for mayor, City Council, school board and the city’s Health Care District board, in addition to talking about state ballot measures.
To keep on top of available forum dates and times, campaign events and more, keep checking our brand-new campaign event calendar, which is on our Decision 2010 election page.
Endorsement update (mayoral edition): Marie Gilmore picked up two more big endorsements in her bid for mayor this week, earning the nod from the Alameda County Democratic Party and the Alameda County Central Labor Council, which includes a host of local unions. The endorsements follow nods from the local firefighters union, former state senator (and fellow mayoral candidate) Don Perata, and outgoing and incoming Alameda County supervisors Alice Lai-Bitker and Wilma Chan.
Frank Matarrese has earned nods from State Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, Alameda County supervisors Keith Carson and Nate Miley, Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio de la Fuente and AC Transit board members Elsa Ortiz and Joel Young.
Vice Mayor Doug deHaan said he’s not yet releasing his endorsement list, and Tony Daysog could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.