RICHMOND -- This blue-collar town has a long history of bare-knuckle politics.
This election season, it's becoming literal.
Two incidents of violence involving City Councilman Corky Booze over the past week are under investigation, Richmond police officials confirmed Friday.
At 6:55 p.m. Thursday, Richmond police arrested David Moore, 72, after an altercation with the 68-year-old councilman outside a candidate debate forum in the 1100 block of Brickyard Cove Drive.
"The assault occurred in the presence of an on-duty police officer, and Councilmember Booze signed a citizens arrest," said Capt. Mark Gagan. Gagan added that Moore was taken to the city jail, where he was cited and released.
Moore is an active member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a local political group at odds with Booze. He has worked as a webpage designer for neighborhood groups and political campaigns in the city.
The incident occurred after a heated conversation, both parties said.
"David got nose-to-nose with me, telling me to shut up, and I started walking away," Booze said Friday. "He cold-cocked me in the back of the head and then in my right temple."
Moore contends that Booze assaulted him.
"Things got heated, and I got in his face and said some pretty mean things, including calling him a bully and a coward," Moore wrote in an email Friday. "At that point, Corky punched me in the face, and I tried to hit him back."
Thursday night's scuffle apparently was not the only one involving Booze in recent days.
Gagan confirmed that police are investigating another incident with the councilman that was reported Sept. 21.
"We did receive an allegation that Mr. Booze committed an assault, and that is being investigated," Gagan said, declining to give further details or name the other person involved.
Booze, a longtime local gadfly before winning a council seat in 2010, has a reputation for combative politics, especially with the RPA and its favored elected officials. Booze is not facing re-election this year, but he has kept himself in the middle of the fray, backing some candidates and fiercely opposing Measure N, an RPA-supported ballot measure that would charge merchants who sell sugar-sweetened beverages a penny-per-ounce tax.
But while long arguments on the council dais and accusations between him and his political rivals are routine, this month has been particularly tumultuous. An internal email circulated at City Hall on Sept. 27 announced that Jackie Thompson, Booze's longtime friend and ally, would no longer serve as his volunteer chief of staff.
Thompson, 64, declined to explain Friday why she and Booze have parted ways. Thompson confirmed that she was involved in a physical altercation of her own recently, this one with Lori Reese-Brown, a staff member in City Manager Bill Lindsay's office. Witnesses have confirmed there was a loud argument and physical interaction between the two women in the lobby outside the City Council chamber Sept. 19.
Thompson said Reese-Brown hit her on the hand and arm.
Reese-Brown said Friday that Thompson jabbed an index finger into her nose, and that she pushed Thompson's hand away in self-defense. Reese-Brown added that she has obtained a restraining order against Thompson.
Residents were surprised to see police swarmed in the normally peaceful shoreline neighborhood Thursday night.
"I pulled up to see the debate, and I saw six or seven police cars outside the building," said the Rev. Andre Shumake. "When politics turn violent like this, that doesn't bode well."
Booze said he was "cocked back" to defend himself after absorbing at least two blows but that the officer quickly intervened. Booze said he'll press charges.
"I'm not going to let the RPA and their people threaten me like that," Booze said.
Moore said Booze punched him first, and suggested that the scuffle stemmed from Booze's combative style at council meetings:
"Corky and I were talking, and I was pretty aggressive about my displeasure with the way he conducts himself at City Council meetings."