Taking a slap at Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Brown, secretary of state candidate Michael Woo went to court Friday in an effort to keep his name on a “slate mailer” endorsement card aimed at more than 1 million California Democrats.
The immediate target of the lawsuit is Clint Reilly, Kathleen Brown’s campaign manager, who also operates a prominent, for-profit slate mailer called the California Democratic Voter Checklist.
The breach of contract suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, charges that Reilly succumbed to pressure from the powerful Democratic Speaker and dropped Woo from his slate, substituting rival candidate Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, an ally of the Speaker.
Woo failed to obtain a court order Friday to force Reilly to include an endorsement of Woo in his mailers, but the suit, which also asks for monetary damages, will continue, his attorneys said.
In response to the suit, Reilly’s attorneys argued that “Michael Woo asks this court for an order requiring defendants to lie to the public. . . . (Reilly) doesn’t think Michael Woo is the best person for the job. He wants to endorse Gwen Moore, a highly qualified black woman, for secretary of state.”
In a sworn statement, Reilly stated that his decision to support Moore “is a political one, not a commercial one,” adding that he is losing money by making the switch.
Earlier this month, the Speaker acknowledged to reporters that he telephoned Kathleen Brown about his unhappiness over Reilly’s initial decision to carry Woo and not Moore. The Speaker said he told her that Reilly’s persistence in his private business “would be terribly counterproductive ultimately for her (Kathleen Brown).”
The Speaker said that Brown “informed me that that was a separate and distinct business, that she would speak to Mr. Reilly, though, and convey my views.”
The Kathleen Brown campaign did not respond to questions about her role in the dispute.
Commercial slate mailers such as Reilly’s do not reflect party endorsements. Candidates pay to get on them as a way of reaching large numbers of voters, often alongside the names of better known candidates running for the major offices, such as governor and U.S. senator.
Woo argued in his lawsuit that he had an oral contract with Reilly. In a sworn statement, Woo’s campaign manager, Steve Glazer, described negotiating with Reilly for a slot on the mailers--agreeing to pay $90,000 for the “endorsement.”
Later, Glazer said, Reilly called to say “that he was getting enormous pressure from Speaker Willie Brown to replace Mike Woo with Gwen Moore on the slate card.” Still later, Reilly told Glazer that he would be replacing Woo with Moore on the candidate slate and returned an initial payment of $60,000 to the Woo campaign.
Woo contended that like other candidates in the secondary statewide races, he has counted on slate mailers like those sold by Reilly to reach voters and that he would be “severely damaged if I am . . . not included.”