San Lorenzo Express News

First Open Race in 10 Years to Decide New
County Supervisor for Ashland and San Lorenzo

MAY 6, 2010

Several candidates are competing in the June election to represent San Lorenzo and part of Ashland on the county board of supervisors. These communities are included in supervisoral district 3. The race was thrown open when the 3d district incumbent, Alice Lai-Bitker, announced shortly after New Year's Day she would not run again. The announcement surprised even political insiders.

Lai-Bitker was appointed to the board of supervisors in December 2000 after then-Supervisor Wilma Chan was elected to the California Assembly. Lai-Bitker had been on Supervisor Chan's staff from 1995 until Chan's resignation from the board.

At the time San Lorenzo was included in the 2nd district, represented by Gail Steele of Hayward. (See 2000 supervisoral district map). Supervisor Steele is also retiring this year, and several seasoned political figures are competing for that vacant seat.

After Lai-Bitker was appointed to the board, San Lorenzo and a portion of Ashland became parts of her district when the supervisoral districts were redrawn to equalize populations. The 3d district includes the cities of Alameda and San Leandro and the Chinatown and Fruitvale areas of Oakland. (See 3rd district map.)

After six years in the state legislature, Chan wants to return to her old seat on the board of supervisors. She announced her candidacy the day following Lai-Bitker's announcement.

Other candidates are Beverly Johnson, mayor of Alameda; Harold Lowe, an Oakland financial planner; and Lou Filipovich, a San Leandro resident. Earlier the field was even more crowded with San Leandro Mayor Sheila Young and Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam competing. Both women withdrew by mid March. Young challenged Lai-Bitker in the 2006 election but lost.

The election of new supervisors in the 2nd and 3rd districts means that the county board will change for the first time in a decade.

Beverly Johnson served on the City of Alameda planning commission and then was elected to the city council. In 2002 she was elected mayor. She is a lawyer, a 1986 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, and served for a while in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office before taking up a private practice. As an Alameda City official she has served on several regional government bodies. Her campaign emphasizes making county government "more accessible, transparent and responsive" to citizens. Johnson has been endorsed by state Sen. Loni Hancock and former state Sen. Don Perata, both of Alameda County.

Wilma Chan served on the Oakland Board of Education from 1990 to 1993. She was elected to the county board of supervisors in 1994 and reelected in 1998. In 1999 she resigned from the board after she was elected to the California Assembly. She served in that office until 2006. In 2008 she lost to Loni Hancock in the election to replace State Sen. Don Perata. Chan's candidacy for the board of supervisors was formally endorsed by Supervisor Lai-Bitker in mid April. Chan's focus is on health care and children's programs, an agenda that Lai-Bitker has supported as county supervisor. During her earlier tenure on the board of supervisors she worked to expand the number of school-based health clinics.

Harold Lowe seems to be emphasizing his ability as an "outsider" -- he has not held public office -- to bring a fresh perspective to the board of supervisor. He says "the old ways of doing things has made California broke and Alameda County broken." However, judging from his Facebook site, his attention seems focused on the City of Oakland.

Lou Filipovich has run as the Republican Party candidate in a number of local races, and in 2006 ran for three offices simultaneously. He usually does not appear at candidate forums or answer questionaires.

The retirement of Supervisor Steele could be a significant loss to the large unincorporated community clustered around San Lorenzo and Castro Valley. Supervisor Steele developed an intimate knowledge of the community through her years on the Hayward City Council and then as the county supervisor for San Lorenzo through 2002. Since the county directly governs the unincorporated area, the board of supervisors is repeatedly called on to make the kinds of decisions that in an incorporated city would be made by the city council and mayor. Throughout her years as county supervisor Steele was a regular visitor at a variety of community meetings.

Among the candidates for the 2nd district seat, Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling might bring to the board the same knowledge of the unincorporated communities, as he worked for Supervisor Steele and later Supervisor Lai-Bitker for a number of years. The other candidates in the 2nd district election are Nadia Lockyer, executive director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center; former state Sen. Liz Figueroa; and Union City Mayor Mark Green.