Only eight months ago, Bill Lockyer was the envy of California politicians. Undefeated in 39 years as assemblyman, senate leader, attorney general and treasurer, the Democrat won 5.4 million votes in his 2010 re-election, more than any other state official in the U.S.
Then in February, headlines about his wife, Nadia Lockyer, 41, an Alameda County supervisor -- whose rise in politics he sponsored with more than $1 million from his own campaign funds -- began to spill out in the state’s newspapers. They chronicled an extramarital affair, an alleged sex tape and drug abuse.
The 71-year-old state treasurer, who set up a campaign fund to run for controller in 2014, is seeking appointment as chief executive officer of the California State University system, the nation’s largest. As he does, he faces continuing revelations about his estranged wife, most recently her arrest on charges of methamphetamine possession, a felony, and neglect of the couple’s 9-year-old son who was with her.
Bill Lockyer, who still harbors aspirations to higher office and has $2.4 million in contributions to finance them, has “remained focused on doing the job he was elected to do,” according to a spokesman in Sacramento, Tom Dresslar. That includes selling $19.3 billion in debt this year, the most of any state, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“I don’t expect it to have any campaign consequences,” Lockyer said in an interview, referring to his family tribulation. “It’s just a personal stress and time that I have to commit to being a single parent.”
Lockyer, then 61 and California’s attorney general, married Nadia Maria Davis, 31, an Orange County lawyer, in 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.
It was his third marriage and her first, a Lockyer spokesman, Nathan Barankin, told the Times. He said the couple had met at Democratic Party functions and that she was expecting a baby, the newspaper reported.
Nadia Lockyer became executive director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center in 2007, according to her biography archived by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of California Education Fund. The agency is part of the county district attorney’s office and helps victims of domestic, sexual and child abuse,
In 2010, Nadia Lockyer was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Of the $1.64 million in contributions raised for her campaign, $1.45 million came from her husband’s state political account, according to campaign finance records.
In the same general election, Bill Lockyer received 5.43 million votes, more than California Governor Jerry Brown or any other elected official in the U.S., according to the secretary of state’s office.
Trouble in the marriage became public in early February when Lockyer told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that his wife had been “violently attacked” in a Newark, California, motel room by a man he described as an ex-boyfriend of his wife. Court papers later identified the man as Stephen Robert Chikhani, 36, who wasn’t arrested.
Because Nadia Lockyer’s ties to the district attorney’s office could pose a conflict of interest, the investigation was handed to the California Justice Department, which is headed by the attorney general.
“The Department of Justice has thoroughly reviewed the matter referred to us by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office regarding the Feb. 3 incident at a Newark hotel involving Nadia Lockyer,” according to a statement provided by Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman. “After reviewing the evidence, the department has determined that it will not file charges.”
On Feb. 14, Nadia Lockyer announced she was taking a leave of absence from her supervisor duties to undergo treatment for substance abuse. Then, on Feb. 26, the Chronicle reported that a sex tape of Nadia Lockyer and a man had been sent to Bill Lockyer before the hotel incident.
At a San Jose courthouse two days later, where he appeared for a hearing on possession of methamphetamines and other charges, Chikhani told reporters, “There’s a way bigger story than the sex tapes,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Chikhani has been charged at least three times since 2010 with possession and being under the influence of a controlled substance, according to records in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose. He was sentenced to two months in jail and two years of probation for those offenses, according to the records.
Chikhani didn’t respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the Feb. 3 incident.
On April 13, the Mercury News said a reporter received an e-mail that appeared to be sent from Nadia Lockyer, accusing her husband of supplying her with drugs.
“Bill bought and gave me drugs years before meeting Steve,” the newspaper said the e-mail read, “then called me crazy when I sought help.”
Nadia Lockyer denied sending the message and said her e- mail account had been hacked, then later said she actually had sent it, the newspaper said.
“I ask the public not to hold anything against my husband for actions that happened a long time ago,” she said in a Mercury News interview.
Asked about her drug-supplier assertion, Bill Lockyer referred to an earlier comment from Dresslar reported by the Sacramento Bee: “The allegation that Bill Lockyer provided her drugs was B.S.” The telephone line then went dead. Dresslar didn’t respond to a request to resume the interview.
Nadia Lockyer didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Her criminal defense lawyer, Allan Stokke, didn’t respond to a telephone call and e-mail message seeking comment.
Nine days after the e-mail, Nadia Lockyer resigned from her supervisor position, “in order that I may focus on the well- being of my child, recovery from chemical dependency and interpersonal violence, and transitioning to work in the private sector,” she said in a statement published by AOL Inc. (AOL:US)’s Livermore Patch, an online news site.
On July 13, Bill Lockyer filed for divorce in Alameda County Superior Court, according to court records.
The treasurer since 2007 of the most-populous state, Lockyer is ineligible to run for a re-election due to term limits. The current controller, John Chiang, has publicly expressed an interest in running for treasurer.
Bill Lockyer’s contributors poured $66.8 million into his last four campaigns. He has almost $2.4 million left in his political account for controller, according to filings with the secretary of state’s office, more than the combined total of the other six people who have filed statements of intent to run in 2014.
The potential candidate with the second-largest sum, former state Assembly Democratic leader Dario Frommer of Los Angeles, said in a telephone interview that he won’t run for controller if Lockyer does. Others expect Lockyer to seek the office.
“I’ve known Bill Lockyer since the 1970s,” said Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. “He is a true public servant, in the sense of serving the public in a variety of roles. I fully expect him to run for controller and be the odds-on favorite based on name recognition.”
In an interview, Lockyer said his interest in serving as chancellor of the California State system had nothing to do with his family turmoil or the possibility of it being raised in a campaign. Lockyer, whose term as treasurer ends in 2014, would have to step down to take the post.
The university system, based in Long Beach, has 23 campuses, almost 427,000 students and 44,000 faculty and staff; its sister, the Oakland-based University of California system, has about 220,000 students, and 170,000 faculty and staff, according to their websites.
The chancellor’s position may pay better. While compensation for a successor hasn’t been set, retiring Chancellor Charles Reed received $451,500 last year in salary and supplements, said Mike Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesman. Lockyer earns $132,230 a year as treasurer.
A new leader may be announced this month, Uhlenkamp said. He declined to say who was being interviewed or whether Lockyer was in contention.
Even as Cal State trustees were interviewing candidates, Nadia Lockyer reappeared in news headlines. She was arrested Aug. 28 in a home in Orange, California, where she was staying with the couple’s 9-year-old son, according to state court filings in Santa Ana, southeast of Los Angeles.
Acting on an anonymous tip, police found methamphetamine, as well as an aluminum-foil tube with a burned end, in the room where she and her son were staying, according to the filings. Foil tubes can be used to smoke meth.
Lockyer was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and three misdemeanors, including child endangerment, according to court records. She was released on bail to National Therapeutic Services, a drug rehabilitation center in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, according to court records. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A receptionist at the center said he couldn’t confirm whether Nadia Lockyer was there and declined to forward a message from Bloomberg News.
On Sept. 10, an Orange County judge granted Nadia Lockyer permission to visit her son while her husband is present, or to speak with the boy on the telephone, according to court records.
In a statement reported by the Associated Press, she said, “I’m really happy to be getting the help that I need and focusing on getting healthy and I hope to inspire many, many others to do the same.”
To contact the reporter on this story: James Nash in Los Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com