Newcomer takes fundraising lead in Assembly race | February 5, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 5, 2010

Newcomer takes fundraising lead in Assembly race

Venture capitalist Becker overtakes Gordon, Kishimoto in cash raised

by Gennady Sheyner

A Menlo Park venture capitalist has surged past two political veterans in the race for campaign cash, all but ensuring a tight three-way contest for Ira Ruskin's seat in the State Assembly.

Joshua Becker, whose campaign is a little more than three months old, has received $219,643 in campaign contributions, according to financial statements filed Monday. His two opponents in the Democratic primary, San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon and former Palo Alto Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto, have raised $195,360 and $161,464 as of Dec. 31, respectively.

Becker took the lead in fundraising despite being the only political newcomer in the race. Calling himself an "innovation Democrat," Becker is banking on Silicon Valley support to win Ruskin's seat in the 21st District, which includes 13 cities from San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Ruskin will be termed out at the end of this year.

Gordon has received much of his support from San Mateo County attorneys, Realtors and labor leaders. Kishimoto has relied on checks from local environmentalists, politicians and neighborhood leaders. Becker has been boosted by the district's high-tech sector. His more than 300 contributors include many technologists and CEOs, including professionals from such firms as Google, HP, Microsoft, Apple and Cisco.

Becker, who sits on the University of California Board of Trustees, said he has received most of his support from people who have worked with him in the fields of clean technology and education. His contributors include executives from companies such as TerraPass, Saber es Poder and Renewable Funding — companies in which Becker's venture firm, New Cycle Capital, had invested. They also include an assortment of University of California executives and Bay Area venture capitalists.

Unlike his opponents, Becker hasn't held an elective office in the 21st District. But he isn't completely new to politics. In May 2008 Becker co-founded the group Cleantech and Green Business Leaders for Obama, which brought environmental leaders together to support Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Like Obama, Becker is hoping to attract supporters with the promise of change.

"What people are hungering for are new ideas and new approaches in California," Becker told the Weekly Monday. "People are kind of fed up and disappointed."

Gordon also presents himself as a "change" candidate, even as he emphasizes his decades of public service in San Mateo County. Gordon, who officially announced his candidacy last March, is currently in his 12th year on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and has previously served on the county Board of Education.

On his campaign website, Gordon calls for government reform, including the abolition of a law that requires two-thirds approval in the Legislature for passing the state budget. He also calls for increased education spending and universal health coverage for California's children.

Gordon's list of endorsements includes U.S. Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, and a long list of local officials. Most of his endorsers and contributors are from cities such as Redwood City, San Mateo and Menlo Park. They include Palo Alto City Council members Yiaway Yeh and Gail Price.

But Gordon's campaign also received $7,800 in contributions from the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 467 and six $3,900 checks from attorneys in the Burlington-based law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Kishimoto, who served on the Palo Alto City Council for eight years before reaching her term limit last year, has her base of support in Santa Clara County. She referred to herself as a "grassroots candidate" and said she is not daunted by the fact that she is now trailing Becker and Gordon in campaign fundraising.

Kishimoto's campaign chest has been bolstered by a $65,000 loan she had made to her campaign. She has received fewer four-figure checks than her two Democratic opponents but has earned the support from council members, neighborhood groups and local officials from all over the Peninsula.

Kishimoto, who had organized the Peninsula Cities Coalition focusing on high-speed rail, said she's confident her background in business, clean technology, transportation and land use will ultimately lift her past her two opponents. Her list of supporters includes most current Palo Alto City Council members and mayors of Menlo Park, Los Altos, Belmont and Sunnyvale. She also said she is in the process of putting together a signature drive in hopes of widening her base of support.

"I think the numbers are close enough that they will make me a little more hungry for more fundraising," Kishimoto said. "I think the race is very, very competitive."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at


Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm

"innovation Democrat"

Isn't that an oxymoron?

Posted by Too Much Traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I hope the voters will not make the mistake of electing Kishimoto to the State Assembly. We need to ask ourselves what exactly did Kishimoto accomplish during her 8 years on the council.
Let's see:

One of Kishimoto's mantras was "walkable neighborhoods"---sounds nice--but Kishimoto accomplished nothing towards that goal. Witness the continued stagnation of Alma Plaza and Edgewood Plaza

Another of her mantras was "too much traffic" and an extension to this was the "even one additional car trip in Palo alto is too many" claim. Yet Kishimoto had no trouble promoting the Tour of California bike race, the Senior Games and Destination Palo Alto during her time on the council. Sounds to me like she is talking out of both sides of her mouth--does she want the tax revenue or does she not want any traffic?

Then of course is her constant bashing of Stanford. Kishimoto forgets that Palo Alto is what is today because of Stanford. When Stanford came forward with the plan to retrofit and rebuild the hospital--Kishimoto came up with the quip that the project was "like swallowing a bowling ball" and that sums up her input in this area. Stanford also was willing to enlarge the shopping center, as per the request of her fellow councilmembers. Yet this plan was abandoned after the long list of "demands" that her, Morton and Drekmeier made.

Then their is the HSR issue. Prior to the 2008 election Kishimoto authored a colleagues letter in which she supported the HSR and urged the council and the voters in Palo Alto to support the measure (obviously she had her green glasses on). Then soon after the election, she made an about face and is now against the HSR. it is clear that she did not study the matter carefully and did not think the whole issue out before urging everyone to vote yes. Larry Klein claimed he was "misled" --what is Yoriko's excuse (my thoughts are that she filters everything through and her green filter and if it sounds "green" then support it--even if youdo not know what you are supporting).

there are many other issues that arose during her tenure on the council--none of which reflect very well on her--the Children's Theatre scandal, the Utilities scandal, the California Avenue tree cutting, the budget problems, the lack of infrastructure repair. Yes, we know what the council's position is--they are not responsible, they did not know, they were misled--the list of excuses goes on and on.

We can do better than electing Kishimoto to the State Assembly.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I am sure Kishimoto is a nice lady, but not a fit candidate for the State Assembly.
Much of what Too Much Traffic writes is true.

Posted by Been There, Seen That, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:15 am

"venture capitalist from Menlo Park" = A Richie-Rich with nothing better to do (see John Boyle, MP City Council)

Thanks, but no thanks, Josh

Posted by Going, Going, Gone, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

Too much traffic says: "I hope the voters will not make the mistake of electing Kishimoto to the State Assembly. We need to ask ourselves what exactly did Kishimoto accomplish during her 8 years on the council."

I plan to vote for Kishimoto for state Assembly just to get her out of Palo Alto. If she doesn't get elected to the State Assembly she'll be back running for City Council after her term limits expire. I definitely do not want her back on our City Council; so, send her off to Sacramento where she won't be noticed.

Our State Assembly is so disfunctional anyway, she won't be able to do any harm there.

Posted by Too Much Traffic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2010 at 7:50 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

By the way, the article also mentions endorsements from City Council members. Those need to be looked upon with a grain of salt--our council members are constantly endorsing one another for every position. During the election periods you can actually find council members endorsing more candidates than there are open seats.
Maybe, in Palo Alto politics, if you do not endorse someone that is considered to be criticism, which is considered a personal attack. That is why PA council elections are so vanilla--no one ever criticizes anyone else's stand--no one ever discusses real issues and everyone just parrots the same "Palo Alto is wonderful and I will keep it that way" mantra.
Hopefully in this Assembly election, Kishimoto's opponents will take the gloves off and expose her lack of a record of accomplishments

Posted by Won't vote for Yoriko, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 3, 2010 at 9:46 am

Well, it looks like Ms Kishimoto was at Stanford looking for votes:

Web Link

The article states:
"Kishimoto replied that she’s not afraid to jump on complex and difficult issues.
“I like to tackle problems that other people think are unsolvable,” she said."

Perhaps she can give an example of a complex and difficult issue that others thought was unsolvable that she dealt with during her 8 years on the council. Clearly Alma Plaza is not such an issue. Maybe she means the Homer Avenue tunnel???

Anyway, as a Stanford employee, I can honestly say that her stance vis a vis Stanford over the years will definetley influence my upcoming vote (or in other words--I won't be voting for her. I urge other Stanford residents/employees to look at her antagonistic attitude towards Stanford over the years when making your decision.

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:42 am

Too Much Traffic: Thanks for an excellent summary of Kishimoto’s "achievements."

Her website says, “Yoriko has passed seven consecutive balanced budgets in Palo Alto.” I think we all know that the city budget has a big deficit.

Kishimoto has long been on the VTA board. From the Daily News 5 part series on local transit: VTA’s “projected $22 million deficit in June exploded into a $98 million shortfall in October.”

Tom Rubin, former CFO of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, calls VTA the “worst transit agency in the country.”

Going, Going, Gone: Please don’t send her to Sacramento. As you point out, the State Assembly is already dysfunctional. Let’s not make that worse!

Posted by Ordinary Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Based on the Daily Post’s list of campaign contributors published In the 02.03.10 edition:

John Becker's supporters--looks like a list of the Silicon Valley 500. Wonder if he has any ordinary people behind him? Was thinking of voting for Gordon, but his supporters seem to be "status-quo--big government forever" types. Becker’s bringing Judy Kleinberg on board as his “opening act” was a real turn-off. And Kishimoto is a nonstarter.

Boy .. this is so depressing

Posted by PJ, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Ordinary Joe I read somewhere that Gordon was a supporter of the Cargill development in RC. If that is true then I'd think twice before voting for him unless you like huge developments built on the Bay. Yes, this is so depressing.

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