About 30 sign-toting residents and activists assembled at City Hall in Richmond California to rail against what they say is a heavy handed attempt by Chevron Corp. to influence the Nov. 4th 2014 election. They also announced their own new political action committee backing progressive candidates. The residents raised banners and stood in front of a 10-foot sign stating, “Our Election is NOT FOR SALE,” while rallying against Chevron’s $3-million in campaign spending backing the oil company’s favored candidates for mayor and City Council. “I have personally received between 20 and 30 mailers from Chevron candidates,” Richmond resident Leon Zhou said during the press conference, held by the newly-formed Richmond Working Families political action committee.
Political activist Edith Pastrano said this election is “crucial” as a majority of council seats are up for grabs. “It’s ridiculous how persistent they are in spending that much money,” Pastrano said. She said that Chevron is promoting “bought and sold” candidates and attacking progressive candidates because “they are afraid” to face the real issues in Richmond. Speakers at the press conference emphasized the need to address issues like creating job opportunities “that pay a living wage,” saving Doctor’s Medical Hospital, and increasing youth-empowerment programs. They also mentioned pressing concerns over affordable housing, clean air and safe streets.
Chevron, which operates a massive refinery in the city, has plunged millions into various campaign committees this year in an effort promote its favored candidates and undermine the candidacies of politicians who have been critical of the company’s local operations. Zhou said that this election is “particularly important” because they have seen Richmond change for the better in recent years.
I’m very selective in terms my work with frontline communities that engage in electoral politics. I was requested to create some web and print campaign designs to be used in Richmond’s election to help topple Big Oil’s grip on this community and it’s working families. Chevron and other oil companies had spent over $3 million dollars promoting and backing “their” candidates with slick professional advertising campaigns across different media platforms. The message “Our election is not for sale” was plastered across web and signage. From what was relayed to me from boots on the ground was that the imagery helped unite the community and movement to assist in ultimately winning in an astoundingly crushing fashion in what was a very unbalanced and unfair election.