Elections-chief candidate should drop out after sign debacle

Election officials across the country are under attack, egged on by former President Trump’s false claims that ballot fraud was responsible for his 2020 defeat.

Vicki Gordon, a candidate for Contra Costa County clerk-recorder, drives away from a Pleasant Hill home on June 1, 2022, after she was caught taking a campaign sign of an opponent. (Photo courtesy of Anna Stahl)

While Trump’s onslaught is based on lies, it is critical that those who oversee our elections are above reproach — that they provide no opportunity for criticism that can be used as a wedge to undermine confidence in our balloting process.

That’s why Vicki Gordon, the second-place finisher in the June 7 race for Contra Costa County clerk-recorder, should drop out of the Nov. 8 runoff election.

Gordon wants the job overseeing the county’s elections. But, as we reported in an editorial just days before the primary, Gordon was caught taking an opponent’s campaign sign.

It was a cringeworthy moment, one for which Gordon attempted to apologize at the time. She now admits it “was a terrible mistake.” But the true show of contrition would be to exit the race.

Gordon revealed in that moment that, depending on the account of events, at best she has horrible judgment and at worst she was willing to put personal gain above election integrity. Either way, she’s not the person who should be running Contra Costa’s elections.

This is a county already reeling from the felony convictions of former District Attorney Mark Peterson and former Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla, who were both caught illegally using campaign funds for personal expenses.

The disrepute of these officials has unfairly tarnished the hard work of their staff members. The last thing the elections office needs is another questionable leader.

We supported Gordon two years ago when she ran unsuccessfully for reelection to the Contra Costa Community College District board and was subjected to a sleezy political attack. But being a victim in one campaign doesn’t excuse her actions in another. What she did on June 1 was inexcusable.

Gordon was taking a sign from a Pleasant Hill property when the homeowner confronted her. Gordon apologized repeatedly and left the sign. She later said it was on the shoulder of the road leaning against a retaining wall, which she thought was improperly in the public right of way. She said she wanted to return it to the opponent before it was confiscated.

Homeowner Anna Stahl says that the campaign sign Vicki Gordon took on June 1 was firmly staked in the planter area above her retaining wall. Gordon says is was on the ground below leaning against the wall. (Photo courtesy of Anna Stahl)
Homeowner Anna Stahl says that the campaign sign Vicki Gordon took on June 1 was firmly staked in the planter area above her retaining wall. Gordon says is was on the ground below leaning against the wall. (Photo courtesy of Anna Stahl) 

Gordon’s explanation doesn’t make sense. The homeowner, Anna Stahl, who took a picture of Gordon’s car and license plate as she drove away, says the sign was firmly stuck in the ground in the planter area of her property above the retaining wall. But even if the sign were on the ground in front of the retaining wall, that was not justification for Gordon taking it.

Despite the incident, or maybe because it happened so late in the campaign, Gordon still managed to garner 24% of the vote, enough to finish second in the four-way race and qualify for the runoff. Kristin Braun Connelly, who is by far the best candidate, finished first in the June 7 election with 34% of the vote.

Since the election, Gordon has not returned messages from Pleasant Hill police, who have called and visited her home twice. It’s unlikely this case will result in a criminal prosecution. Gordon left the sign behind when she was caught, and the district attorney’s office has bigger cases to pursue.

But the issue for voters is not whether a crime was committed. It’s whether a lack of good judgment was unveiled. And it clearly was. For the sake of public confidence in the county’s election system, Gordon should abandon her campaign.

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