A few seconds from a video of a candidates forum in the 2008 election for City Council in East Palo Alto shows then-candidate Carlos Romero, now a candidate in the June 5 election for San Mateo County supervisor, saying that he has degrees from Stanford and Harvard that he does not have.
In the video, Romero is seen saying, "I have a degree in economics from Stanford in urban planning and an advanced environmental design degree from Harvard."
In responding to an Almanac request for biographical information from all the candidates running for the District 4 seat, a district that includes much of Menlo Park, Romero described his education as follows (semi-colons added):
"Stanford University, International Relations and Economics; Loeb Fellow, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design-Urban Planning/finance; Fannie Mae Fellow, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government"
The Almanac subsequently erred in describing Romero as having a bachelor's degree from Stanford.
In an interview to ask Romero to clarify the facts around his period at Stanford, he said he does not have an undergraduate degree from Stanford. He spent four and a half years there, but said he left lacking the credits for a degree so he could pursue his work in urban development in communities of color, particularly East Palo Alto.
In another interview subsequent to the discovery of his assertions on the video of having degrees to his credit, Romero acknowledged the statements as mistakes by "a neophyte candidate." He repeatedly noted that his current campaign materials do not make such assertions.
"Obviously, the video certainly states what I said," Romero said, noting that he heard the audio of the forum but has not seen the video. "I think it's unfortunate that that was stated in that forum. ... Being a first time candidate at that time, this is not an excuse."
Go to tinyurl.com/Romero-123 or tinyurl.com/Romero-124 to approximately the 16-minute mark to see the video.
In such forums, where a candidate's time at the microphone is measured in seconds, he said he was trying "to hone and refine the message and the amount of time it takes you to deliver the message."
"I would definitely consider it a mistake, one I must certainly own up to," he said. "I consider it an unintentional mistake."
His lack of an undergraduate degree has not been a stumbling block to pursuing graduate-level work, he said. He completed two fellowships at Harvard University, one to which he was invited and the other for which he applied and was accepted, he said.
As a Fannie Mae Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, he studied housing policy, and as a Loeb Fellow, he worked on urban policy, including applying it to affordable housing, he said.
His two fellowships -- which Harvard has confirmed -- resulted in certificates. Asked why he described his accomplishments at Harvard as degrees in the 2008 forum, Romero replied: "I don't know about the interchangeability of that. I don't believe it was purposely misleading."
Does he plan to stay in the race? "Yes, categorically, absolutely," he said. "I have no intention of not completing this race. I stand by my accomplishments professionally, politically and legislatively."