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Indybay Feature
Tony Thurmond's disgraceful behavior in Sacramento
by Tina Kimmel, PhD, MSW, MPH
Wednesday Jun 17th, 2015 10:49 AM
Assemblymember Tony Thurmond is not competent to represent the progressive voices who elected him, as evidenced by his personal and his offices' recent behavior around a controversial bill.
I was in Sacramento on June 9 to speak at the rally and to testify against SB277, the Mandatory Vaccination Bill. We were also there to observe the Assembly Health Committee listen to the experts and the public testimony on this bill, and then to hold their vote on it.

Tony Thurmond is on the Assembly Health Committee, so he was at this meeting. He is the Democratic Richmond/El Cerrito/Albany/Berkeley/Oakland Assemblyperson who was recently elected with the support of the Green Party, after being put forward by Gayle McLaughlin's progressive group in Richmond. The Green Party of Alameda County supported him in our Fall 2014 Voter Guide.

I had sent Thurmond's office piles of material about SB277, and tried for a month to get an audience with him. Despite boosting him in our Voter Guide, voting for him, and having quite a bit of expertise on this issue, I was never able closer than "two staffers away" from him.

I tried again this week to get an appointment with him (ahead of the full Assembly vote, likely on Thursday), but Thurmond's rude young Sacramento staffer would barely talk to me. She just kept repeating that he was too busy to talk with all of his constituents who wanted to meet with him. When I suggested that he needed then to hold a town-hall type meeting, she practically hung up on me.

Other "No on SB277" folks had managed to get a meeting with the same unhelpful staffers in Oakland that I did. They told us that Thurmond was certainly still a progressive and cared about kids etc, and told us he was busy educating himself about the issue. They actually lied to us, saying he hadn't made up his mind, and could well come out on our side.

Watching Thurmond in action on Tuesday was a real shock. EVEN IF YOU SUPPORT THIS BILL, you would have been ashamed by his behavior.

First he was absent for half of the meeting. Then when he came in, he had the nerve to ask only a couple of TOTALLY IGNORANT questions of the experts, and get them to more or less repeat what they already had said while he was out of the room. (BTW it was clear he had NOT educated himself, nor read our material.)

Thurmond continued to come in and out of the room. It was incredibly rude. Note that there were over two hours of public testimony from the 800 people (many with kids, including vaccine-damaged kids) who had travelled from all over the state to express their concern about this bill to the Committee, plus the 70 people who spoke in favor of it. During that time, Thurmond played on his phone, talked and laughed with some unnamed staffer, etc.

I never once saw Thurmond actually listening to the speakers. NO OTHER ASSEMBLY PERSON was acting in such a juvenile, disrespectful manner. In fact, every one of the Committee members except him was visibly moved by the "unprecedented amount of civic engagement" as Chairman Bonta put it... including those who ultimately voted against us.

Thurmond also ignored the movement within the Legislative Black Caucus to question SB277, and voted Yes, with no comment. (Despite the clear public mandate to kill it, the bill passed out of this committee 12-6.) The event is on

Needless to say Thurmond has lost my vote. I don't know if he'll ever be elected-representative material, but IMO he currently is clearly NOT. I know it's hard to find good progressive candidates so I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we've struck out again.

Tina Kimmel, PhD, MSW, MPH
Retired Research Scientist, California Dept of Public Health Immunization Branch, and contact for the Personal Belief Exemption program
County Councilmember, Green Party of Alameda County

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Amy
Thursday Jun 18th, 2015 9:31 AM
Thank you for your efforts to stop this horrible all or nothing bill. I too am disappointed in a few Assembly members (and Senators for that matter). Keep up the good fight.
by Ken Bagwell
Monday Jun 22nd, 2015 12:41 AM
I haven't had bad experience with his staff, personally, but he HAS made himself scarce, just like our shameful Senator Hancock who never met with any of us and never gave any explanation for her vote. I was also shocked at how Asm. Thurmond seemed lost at the committee hearing. All he could come up with was "Well, is this stuff about mercury in vaccines true or not?" I could tell he had not done any homework. I know legislators have a lot on their pkate, but the most contentious and popular bills should get more attention from them. This bill WILL affects 10s of thousand, maybe even 100s of thousands of families. It was sickening to see him just "fall in line" like that.
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