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Portola Valley PAC to unseat council members has raised $29K, including from former Obama ambassador

Portola Valley Town Center. Photo by Michelle Le.

A political action committee aimed explicitly at unseating Portola Valley Town Council members up for reelection this fall has raised close to $29,000, according to finance filings. Its donors are two council candidates and a former ambassador to former President Barack Obama.

The political action committee (PAC), called "Our Future Together PAC Opposing Hughes, Derwin and Richards for Town Council 2022," is aimed at unseating Mayor Craig Hughes and council members Maryann Derwin and John Richards. Only Hughes is seeking reelection in November. The PAC has not yet announced who it plans to endorse for council.

The funds already far exceed what past candidates have raised in prior elections. In 2020, council members Jeff Aalfs and Sarah Wernikoff each spent about $3,000 on their campaigns, according to campaign finance reports. Town Attorney Cara Silver said that, to her knowledge, there hasn't been another PAC in Portola Valley in recent history.

Portola Valley resident Eileen Donahoe, Obama's U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University, gave the largest donation of $10,000 in June.

Donahoe told The Almanac she was walking in her Westridge neighborhood when a neighbor asked her to donate to the PAC. She said her simple motivation for donating was that she trusts her neighbors' judgment and would like to see council members who support fire safety in town.

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Contributions came from council candidates Dale Pfau ($500) and Mary Hufty ($100), according to the filings that cover January 1 to June 30. Both contributions are listed for June 9, prior to the nomination period that began last month.

The town removed Pfau as the Wildfire Preparedness Committee's vice chair in April, but didn't explain why. He serves as chair to the Emergency Preparedness Committee. Pfau said in an email that he donated to the PAC well before he decided to run for office.

"After I decided to become a candidate and before I had completed my filing documents, I requested that the PAC return my contribution to avoid any potential conflict," he said.

Hufty founded Portola Valley Neighbors United (PVNU), a group focused on "fire and seismic safety, affordable housing, and natural habitat, to encourage informed and active participation in governance, and to influence public policies through education and advocacy" in 2020, according to its website.

Hufty did not respond to a request for comment.

Rusty Day, also part of PVNU and a candidate for the Woodside Fire Protection District board, gave $5,000. PAC member and Nathhorst Triangle neighborhood resident Bruce Roberts gave $5,000.

Robert Younge, who serves on the Emergency Preparedness Committee, gave $1,000.

Spending

The PAC spent about $9,500. The biggest portion of that money — almost $7,000 — went toward legal services. About $1,600 have been spent on campaign paraphernalia.

Residents reported receiving mailers from the PAC in early June.

While election years have gone by in Portola Valley without a contested election, this year is different. Prior to 2020, the last contested election in town was in 2013, according to Town Clerk Melissa Thurman. Five candidates are seeking the three seats on the Nov. 8 ballot. Along with Hufty, Hughes and Pfau, Planning Commissioners Craig Taylor and Judith Hasko are also running for a seat on the council. The final day to file nomination papers is Wednesday, Aug. 17.

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Angela Swartz
 
Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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Portola Valley PAC to unseat council members has raised $29K, including from former Obama ambassador

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 16, 2022, 10:17 am

A political action committee aimed explicitly at unseating Portola Valley Town Council members up for reelection this fall has raised close to $29,000, according to finance filings. Its donors are two council candidates and a former ambassador to former President Barack Obama.

The political action committee (PAC), called "Our Future Together PAC Opposing Hughes, Derwin and Richards for Town Council 2022," is aimed at unseating Mayor Craig Hughes and council members Maryann Derwin and John Richards. Only Hughes is seeking reelection in November. The PAC has not yet announced who it plans to endorse for council.

The funds already far exceed what past candidates have raised in prior elections. In 2020, council members Jeff Aalfs and Sarah Wernikoff each spent about $3,000 on their campaigns, according to campaign finance reports. Town Attorney Cara Silver said that, to her knowledge, there hasn't been another PAC in Portola Valley in recent history.

Portola Valley resident Eileen Donahoe, Obama's U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University, gave the largest donation of $10,000 in June.

Donahoe told The Almanac she was walking in her Westridge neighborhood when a neighbor asked her to donate to the PAC. She said her simple motivation for donating was that she trusts her neighbors' judgment and would like to see council members who support fire safety in town.

Contributions came from council candidates Dale Pfau ($500) and Mary Hufty ($100), according to the filings that cover January 1 to June 30. Both contributions are listed for June 9, prior to the nomination period that began last month.

The town removed Pfau as the Wildfire Preparedness Committee's vice chair in April, but didn't explain why. He serves as chair to the Emergency Preparedness Committee. Pfau said in an email that he donated to the PAC well before he decided to run for office.

"After I decided to become a candidate and before I had completed my filing documents, I requested that the PAC return my contribution to avoid any potential conflict," he said.

Hufty founded Portola Valley Neighbors United (PVNU), a group focused on "fire and seismic safety, affordable housing, and natural habitat, to encourage informed and active participation in governance, and to influence public policies through education and advocacy" in 2020, according to its website.

Hufty did not respond to a request for comment.

Rusty Day, also part of PVNU and a candidate for the Woodside Fire Protection District board, gave $5,000. PAC member and Nathhorst Triangle neighborhood resident Bruce Roberts gave $5,000.

Robert Younge, who serves on the Emergency Preparedness Committee, gave $1,000.

Spending

The PAC spent about $9,500. The biggest portion of that money — almost $7,000 — went toward legal services. About $1,600 have been spent on campaign paraphernalia.

Residents reported receiving mailers from the PAC in early June.

While election years have gone by in Portola Valley without a contested election, this year is different. Prior to 2020, the last contested election in town was in 2013, according to Town Clerk Melissa Thurman. Five candidates are seeking the three seats on the Nov. 8 ballot. Along with Hufty, Hughes and Pfau, Planning Commissioners Craig Taylor and Judith Hasko are also running for a seat on the council. The final day to file nomination papers is Wednesday, Aug. 17.

Comments

David B
Registered user
another community
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:13 pm
David B, another community
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 1:13 pm

I am so very tired of these people and their "if I don't get my way I'll throw all my money opposing you" attitude. I hope PV voters reject their approach.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


PV Resident
Registered user
Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Aug 16, 2022 at 2:27 pm
PV Resident, Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2022 at 2:27 pm

I’ve been here a long time and find this exhausting and disappointing. I hope voters reject the combination of verbal and financial bullying that has taken the place of decency, compromise, patience and understanding.


PV Volunteer
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Aug 17, 2022 at 2:37 pm
PV Volunteer, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2022 at 2:37 pm

I wish all the candidates good luck in the election, and that PV voters consider their choices carefully in light of the decisions that the Town must face in the future to meet its requirements and to preserve its character.


Neighbor
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:29 pm
Neighbor, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Aug 19, 2022 at 8:29 pm

I think it's great that there are many candidates from which to choose. I find it very interesting that the Almanac continues to write nothing but negativity about anyone opposing the status quo Town Council in Portola Valley. What purpose does this serve? Almanac, be fair.

David B, you always seem to comment on PV happenings when you've made it clear that you don't live here, you live in Menlo Park. You've also stated several times that you wouldn't live in PV if they paid you to. Why are PV issues so important to you? It just seems odd.


David B
Registered user
another community
on Aug 22, 2022 at 10:01 am
David B, another community
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2022 at 10:01 am

Neighbor, you have the wrong David B. (Although I respect his views). I lived in PV for 21 years. Many readers here suspect who I am from my history of opinions in PV (some even respect my opinions). But I prefer to keep my full name out of public Internet postings.


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