EXCLUSIVE: First-hand account of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao donor paying to help her 2022 campaign

Wednesday, June 26, 2024
EXCLUSIVE: 1st-hand account of donor paying to help Thao's campaign
ABC7 News I-Team has learned Loren Taylor is preparing his campaign staff to take another run for Oakland mayor after FBI raid at Mayor Thao's home.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Sheng Thao won the Oakland mayor's race in November 2022 by only 677 votes. In light of the FBI raid on her home last week, the ABC7 News I-Team has learned that the man who came in second, Loren Taylor, is preparing his campaign staff to take another run at the office.

The I-Team contacted Taylor to ask about a controversial flier mailed to Oakland voters in the days just before the vote and learned that flier has connections to Mayor Sheng Thao and Andy Duong, whose home was also raided by federal agents.

Going into the election for Mayor of Oakland, former councilmember, Loren Taylor, felt strong. He was polling well and had the endorsements of the Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose mayors at the time. Then he went for a ride on the ranked-choice voting rollercoaster. At one point, he was up by 3,587 votes, but after ten rounds, he wound up losing by just 677 out of about 125,000 votes cast.

MORE: Oakland mayoral candidate Loren Taylor concedes to Sheng Thao, slams ranked-choice voting

Oakland mayoral candidate Loren Taylor addressed his supporters on Tuesday, conceding to Sheng Thao a day after she declared herself the winner.

"When you have a margin of 677 votes in an election, every small input, change, etc. can have a huge impact on the outcome," Taylor told the I-Team.

Taylor believes that a series of negative fliers -- 168,000 of them mailed to homes just days before the vote -- cost him the election.

"Darkening my skin color, making my eyes red like caricatures similar to you know, the Willie Horton type of advertisements, it's going to have an effect," Taylor said.

RELATED: Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao sheds tears in fiery speech responding to FBI raid, recall effort

The public heard from Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao for the first time on Monday since her house was raided by the FBI last week.

Taylor is talking about a television ad that had a major impact on the 1988 presidential campaign, George H.W. Bush against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

The Bush television ad said, "He allowed 1st degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. One was Willie Horton who murdered a boy in a robbery stabbing him 19 times."

RELATED: FBI raids Oakland mayor's home, several other locations in political corruption probe: source

In public, real estate agent and political activist Mario Juarez always said that he paid for the fliers and an anti-Loren Taylor website.

But, Mayor Thao's former chief of staff says she watched Juarez approach Thao and Andy Duong at a campaign event in October 2022, asking for more money for the fliers.

"And that was the first time I ever saw Mario, and I was like, what is he doing here?" Renia Webb told the I-Team. "And he straight up said he needed $25,000 to finish that mail piece and I walked away ... because I knew that they shouldn't even be dealing with that or talking about that type of stuff."

Webb tells the I-Team that Andy Duong, whose family owns California Waste Solutions, indicated he would take care of it, and that he had already paid $50,000 for the project.

MORE: Oakland mayor's former chief of staff details what she shared with FBI during 2023 meeting

Mayor Thao's former chief of staff described an office filled with confusion and chaos - much of it centered around the mayor's partner, Andre Jones, and that finally led her to resign.

DAN NOYES: "That violates spending limits, doesn't it?"

LOREN TAYLOR: "Transparency laws, spending limits and others."

Since 2019, Andy Duong has been under investigation by the Oakland Public Ethics Commission, accused of using straw donors to funnel contributions to Sheng Thao and other politicians. Duong's home was raided by the FBI on the same day as Mayor Thao's house, but there's still no official details on that investigation.

"Frankly, there's a lot of impropriety happening within government within politics," Taylor said. "But it's also disheartening to know that there is this much built up in order to keep my supporters, in order to keep Oakland from getting better leadership."

Mario Juarez also faces a felony charge for bouncing three checks to pay the postage on those fliers.

"Maybe a mismanagement of funds by his accountants but no fraud," his attorney said. "I have no information that I can provide to you about his relationship with the Duong family ... But when the time is right, the truth about the pending charges and the nasty state of politics in Oakland will come out."

MORE: Report alleges 'campaign contribution laundering scheme' involving Oakland mayor, city officials

Report details Andy Duong family's political ties and who they donated to, including Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao whose home was raided by the FBI.

Samari Johnson runs Butterfly Direct Marketing that printed all those fliers.

"As far as business wise, I would say that we did a good job," Johnson said.

He says he didn't pay attention to their message, and that the $60-thousand he lost in those bounced checks has been a serious blow to his business.

"We want to get paid back and we're not going to stop until we do," Johnson said. "At some point, the truth has to come to light and we're going to keep fighting until it does. At some point, we'll find out who the liars are."

The I-Team contacted Andy Duong's office for comment, and sent the fliers when they asked, but have not heard back. In terms of the FBI investigation, it looks like we should all settle in for the long haul. A source at the Justice Department tells the I-Team that he "has no basis to believe there will be any comment anytime soon on last week's activities."

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