Measure B support turns weird

It was either an extreme case of late-hour desperation or else a pathetic stab at political trickery. Then again, it could have been an act of full-moon lunacy, if not for the fact the moon had reached its peak a week earlier.

Whatever the motivation, the effort to pass the county redistricting initiative Measure B, which ultimately failed, took a bizarre twist the day before the primary election. The measure would have put into place a controversial redistricting plan that would carve up Chico’s districts in the hopes of diluting the political base of the city’s two supervisors, Jane Dolan and Mary Anne Houx.

The board’s conservative majority—Curt Josiassen, Kim Yamaguchi and Bob Beeler—pushed for the redrawn lines known as Plan 5, which triggered lawsuits and legal fees reaching $108,000 or more.

On March 4 a recorded message was phoned to a number of local registered Democrats urging them to “stop the illegal gerrymandering” by voting yes on Measure B. The call was being made on “behalf of Chico Democrats,” says the recording in a voice that is undeniably that of David Reade, the political consultant often credited with being the behind-the-scenes creator of Measure B.

“We must protect our Chico neighborhoods from the extreme right-wing supervisors,” he says.

Incredibly, he then goes on to say, “Stop the illegal David Reade redistricting plan. Vote yes on Measure B.”

It was an obvious attempt to confuse voters as to what a yes or no vote meant on the measure, because a yes vote in fact favors Reade’s plan. Calls to Reade’s office were not returned.

Many of the same registered voters received a second call the same night from Dolan warning them a message urging a yes vote on B was nothing more than a hoax of possibly criminal proportions. Dolan’s husband Bob Mulholland, a state Democratic Party adviser, said he was going to contact the FBI, the state attorney general, the district attorney and the state Fair Political Practices Commission and report the misleading phone message.

Dolan said that in her more than 20 years in politics she had never seen a more bizarre political maneuver and called Reade a “desperate” man.

The day of the election, the News & Review received a fax from the group Butte County Citizens for Fair Elections, which is operated by Reade and supported Measure B. Accompanying the fax was a copy of an e-mail message purportedly sent by Dolan “indicating her change of heart regarding support for fair election districts for Butte County Supervisors.”

“Based on the receipt of this message,” the fax explains, “a non-monetary contribution was made to contact Democratic voters to advocate for Jane Dolan’s re-election and support for the Measure B redistricting referendum.”

The legitimacy of the attached e-mail is suspect at best.

“I have decided that you guys have a good point with this whole redistricting nonsense,” it has Dolan saying. “I admit it … I screwed everyone over with that gerrymandering crap back in ‘91 and you guys are right to try to ream me now. I officially give my support to your redistricting plan and pledge my vote for Measure B.”

The fax defends the Reade phone message, saying it “poked fun at some of the outrageous accusations of the opponents of fair election districts.” It also tries to defend the use of the phrase “on behalf of Chico Democrats” by including the definition of the word “behalf": “for the benefit of.”

“This particular advocacy message was intended to provide information ‘for the benefit of’ Democratic voters,” the fax states.

Calls to the Fair Political Practices Commission to determine if anything illegal had taken place with the recorded message were not returned by press time.