In Chuck Hammond’s 1998 race for a seat on the Solano County Board of Supervisors he faced Duane Kromm, a squeaky clean, hard-knuckled campaigner who used Hammond’s political history as raw material to construct a devastating attack on the genial former mayor, who despite his indiscretions, had left office on a positive note, and was increasingly perceived, based on newspaper accounts, as a progressive before his time.
Kromm launched campaign mailers so vicious that the Fairfield-Suisun Daily Republic cited them as one reason they wouldn’t endorse Kromm. The mailers touted not only Hammond’s Fair Political Practice Commission violations, but emphasizing an unproven allegation that the mayor strong-armed Super Bowl tickets from Anheuser-Busch for himself and four friends in January 1995, when the 49ers defeated the Chargers.
Anheuser-Busch has a huge production facility in Fairfield, and was also developing a large industrial park at the time, requiring many city approvals.
The “hit piece” accused Hammond of fabricating a promise of free tickets from Fairfield Anheuser-Busch Plant Manager Wayne Senalik, showing up on game day in Miami with his friends in tow and demanding tickets from Anheuser-Busch sales executive Al McThee, who was manning the hospitality suite.
It describes how Hammond “went nuclear” and “made a scene” when he learned there were no tickets waiting for him.
The flier painted a vivid picture of Hammond “persistently petitioning him (Al McThee) in front of his clients” while McThee desperately tried to locate five precious Super Bowl tickets hours before the game. He ultimately succeeded, it states, whereupon Hammond loudly complained that they were not adjacent.
Hammond’s version of the story has Senalik inviting him and his friends to the hospitality suite, but then diverges from the narrative in the hit piece. In what Hammond assumes was a miscommunication, Senalik indicated that tickets for the big game would be available for his party once they got there.
Hammond told Village Life, “He said something like, ‘If you guys get to Miami, you’ll find some tickets.’”
Senalik had nothing to say to investigating journalists at the time. Reached at his home in Fairfield recently Senalik remained hesitant to discuss the matter, but said he never offered the mayor any tickets.
Was it simply semantic confusion? “Absolutely,” said Hammond, who denies any aggression in the hospitality suite.
He said McThee found five seats in relatively short order and gave them to Hammond and friends, one of whom was retired Maj. Gen. Dale R. Baumler, who formerly commanded the famed Flying Tigers, the 14th Air Force, and served on the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee of Solano County in retirement.
Village Life contacted Baumler, who remained loyal to his friend Hammond and claimed a clear recollection of the events in Miami. He confirmed the disconnect on the tickets, but said McThee willingly located replacements for his party with “just a few calls.”
Baumler said he later learned Hammond paid for the tickets to avoid a FPPC violation, and paid Hammond for his seat.
The campaign mailer’s repayment scenario has City Manager Charlie Long insisting Hammond pay Anheuser-Busch for the tickets, including an extra $250 for use of the hospitality suite to avoid a FCCP infraction. It claims that McThee likely laid out more than $1,000 for each of the last-minute purchases, and Hammond only paid face value, $200 each.