Buffy Wicks' fellow White House officials, her colleagues at Obama for America, Barack Obama's campaign manager, progressive funder Tom Steyer, gun violence prevention advocates, dentists, donors to Kamala Harris and other prominent Democratic politicians, and friends from trips to Burning Man 15 years ago.
What do they have in common?
They are supporters of Buffy's campaign for Assembly, of course.
But now, according to the "East Bay Democratic Socialists of America" (DSA) and the campaign of Buffy's opponent, Jovanka Beckles, they are somehow stitched together to support outlandish claims that Buffy is someone she isn't.
A $1,000 contribution from Buffy's former boss and Obama campaign manager, Jim Messina, is somehow made to seem nefarious.
A $1,500 contribution from former Obama staffer and current Salesforce employee Jim Green has something to do with "Trump's deportation machine."
The liberal Joyce Foundation, which Buffy worked for and has for years been one of the only funders of gun violence prevention, is characterized as "anti-public education."
A $200 donation from an old friend she went to Burning Man with and played water polo with on a gay and lesbian team invokes Big Pharma's responsibility for the opioid epidemic.
It says that a Wicks donor named Drew Goesl gave $18,500 to Devin Nunes and $17,000 to the NRCC - but that's just a completely made up lie. What else are these people lying about?
There's mention of a $150,000 contribution from Ed Voice, a charter advocacy organization, but Buffy didn't receive that money, and there's no evidence that it went to benefit her. In fact, Buffy hasn't taken any money from charter school supporters.
The political organization Govern for California has donated to local progressives like labor champion and Senate Pro Tem leader Toni Atkins, our own State Senator Nancy Skinner, and many other progressive champions, but it's support for Wicks is held to a different standard.
There's talk of "corporate" Democrats - but Buffy is one of the few major political figures in California state politics that who refuses to take corporate contributions. It's a principled stand she takes because she believes it's the right thing to do. She should be praised not attacked!
And on and on.
As a political science professor, part of my job involves following politics, analyzing data and working to distinguish fact from fiction. The arguments of East Bay Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) made against the Wicks Campaign are not only inaccurate, but they are void of any kind of sustentative depth. On the whole they are fragments of information stripped of appropriate context to advance a dishonest narrative against a woman who's indisputably dedicated her career to the furtherance of progressive politics and policy in California and across the country.
In the classroom, I am always encouraging my students to search for truth in our political discourse and to think critically about anything they read or are told. And in an era of "alternative facts" by the Trump smear machine, these deceptions by the so-called progressive left are equally damaging to our democratic values and must be called out. We can and must do better.
Perhaps the most egregious falsehood revolves around charter schools. Wicks is running on a platform emphasizing funding public education and supporting public school teachers. She's a product of California public schools and attended a California community college. She supports increased regulation and accountability for charters and believes charters should be Unionized. She has been endorsed by public school champion and CTA-backed gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, as well as Berkeley's own former superintendent of schools Michele Lawrence, explicitly because of her commitment to public schools.
The DSA and other opponents of Wicks say that she's taken money from charter school supporters, but of the 1400+ donations she's received, we're talking about a small handful of people who have supported Democrats like Buffy and have also supported charter schools. For instance, Laurene Powell Jobs, who funds immigrants right's work and other progressive causes across this country, also supports KIPP. There's no evidence to suggest that a donation like this is motivated by a position concerning charter schools - in fact, they're much more easily explained other differences between the candidates, e.g. Beckles' claim that "we don't have a housing shortage crisis" versus Wicks goal of building more affordable and middle-income housing.
Rivals are fishing for vulnerabilities in Buffy's candidacy, but the attacks waged by DSA are fabricated exaggerations and serve as, yet, another means to fan the flames of fear and falsehood. We can and must do better.
If it sounds like I take these attacks personally, it’s because I do. I grew up in a working-class Pro-Union family and have been a proud Union member from the time I took my first job bagging groceries to now as an educator working in one of our state's public community colleges. I am not only the product of public education, but I chose a career in public education because of the values it uniquely fosters and the opportunities it affords to people like me: values and opportunities that Buffy and I share and from which we have benefited. It is time we have representation that has lived a life shaped by these values and will fight to preserve them. Buffy knows full well the importance of keeping public education public; the powerful significance of organized labor in helping to expand workers’ rights; and the urgency of keeping corporate money out of politics.
Our shared values and passion for creating opportunity in our community, strengthening workers’ rights, and protecting public education are all reasons why I'm supporting Buffy Wicks for Assembly District 15.
Matthew Freeman is a Professor of Political Science at Berkeley City College.
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