Richmond: The little town that beat big oil

“The Chevrons of the world, the Koch Brothers and the others … their religion is greed … we cannot allow them to take over Richmond,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told a packed auditorium in Richmond, Calif., last month. Sanders’ appearance drew national attention to local races there that have since become a symbol of the tension between grassroots politics and big money’s influence on elections. And on Tuesday, this city of more than 100,000 garnered national headlines when it became one of the few spots in the country where progressive underdogs triumphed, even though they were heavily outspent by their opponents. Here the battle lines were defined by one big donor, the multinational oil giant Chevron, which operates a century-old refinery in Richmond. Candidates who had accepted backing from Chevron fought an alliance of progressives who had not. The company spent more than $3 million on the Richmond election. But voters there rejected the candidates Chevron supported in favor of a scrappy, volunteer-driven coalition that included Richmond’s current mayor, a soft-spoken former schoolteacher and Green Party member named Gayle McLaughlin who ran for city council this year after reaching the end of term limits. Also among the winners were Jovanka Beckles, the openly gay vice mayor who successfully championed a higher minimum wage there; Eduardo Martinez, also a former teacher; and longtime local politician Tom Butt, who won the mayoral seat. Now up to six of the city’s seven council seats may soon be occupied by Chevron critics, according to the Contra Costa Times.
Read more... →

You may also like...