SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — California state treasurer Bill Lockyer is used to the public spotlight. Just not like this.
After a political career spanning four decades, Lockyer is drawing attention not for his job but for his marital troubles, his wife’s substance abuse and her claim that she was roughed up by an ex-boyfriend at a motel room.
And with each new development, the story has taken ever stranger turns.
An email last week that appeared to be sent from Nadia Lockyer, herself a promising Bay Area politician, went to a newspaper, accusing her husband, a former state attorney general, of supplying her with drugs – a charge he denies.
“I simply can’t bear this any longer. Goodbye to everyone,” the note read. The newspaper, fearing for her safety, called police.
Nadia Lockyer, 40, didn’t harm herself. Federal and state authorities will not say if they’re investigating the drug allegation, but the state attorney general’s office took over the probe of the incident involving her ex-boyfriend.
Despite it all, the 70-year-old Lockyer has “remained focused on doing the job he was elected to do,” said his spokesman, Tom Dresslar.
The saga, nevertheless, has been a distraction for an office that oversees tens of billions of dollars in bond sales and other state investments. And it threatens to imperil not only Nadia Lockyer’s political future, but tarnish one of the state’s longest serving political figures.
“It’s hard to follow this story and not think there’s something very disturbing going on with her,” said Bruce Cain, a University of California, Berkeley political science professor.
Bill Lockyer and Nadia Lockyer, a public interest attorney, got married in April 2003 and have an 8-year-old son, Diego. She is four years younger than Lockyer’s adult daughter, Lisa, from a previous marriage.
They live in Hayward. In November 2010, she won a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Her husband transferred about $1.5 million from his campaign committee to hers, enabling her to run an aggressive campaign.
Nadia Lockyer reportedly considered running for the state Assembly before her marriage, then switched to a bid for supervisor.
“Her future took a very fast rise, and you have to acknowledge that the money bought her exposure,” said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University.
Yet the couple’s romance is the sort of thing that has dogged Bill Lockyer since he first won a seat in the state Assembly in 1973.
“It’s stuff like that that’s kept him from running for governor or U.S. Senate. He’s said outrageous things, led an unconventional personal life. I think he’s stayed at the level he’s stayed because if there’s intense scrutiny on him, people might find out,” Cain said.
Still, Lockyer has been one of California’s most influential, if lesser known, Democrats. Described as mercurial and blunt, he has served as attorney general twice. And in his 2010 re-election TV advertisement for treasurer, he promised voters “straight talk, no bull—-!”
Lockyer is now preparing to seek the state controller’s office in 2014, when term limits will push him out of the treasurer’s office.
But his personal life seems to be unraveling, along with his wife.
Nadia Lockyer had substance abuse problems and went to a rehab facility in 2010 within a few weeks of her election. There, she met and began an affair with Steve Chikhani, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
In February, she claimed Chikhani, whom she was no longer seeing, assaulted her in a Bay Area-hotel room. The alleged assault happened days before she checked herself into a treatment center to recover from her injuries and a chemical dependency.
The Mercury News published photographs of her bruised forehead and neck. She said the she and her husband took the photos two days after the alleged assault. No charges have been filed.
She later returned to her position, apologizing and saying that she was “glad to be back on my feet.”
As recently as last month, the couple spent a few days apart, with Nadia Lockyer staying at a hotel, Dresslar said. The spokesman also confirmed reports in the Mercury News that Bill Lockyer went to the hotel to get receipts for his wife’s stay.
“As we speak, they are” living together, Dressler said.
And then, last week, the email was sent to the Mercury News.
“I cannot bear the torture of Steve Chikhani’s harassment in my life any longer,” according to a message from her personal account. “My son has suffered far too much and his harassment is now unbearable,” it read. “I am the victim of a violent crime – yet he is still free and we suffer.”
She added: “Bill bought and gave me drugs years before meeting Steve, then called me crazy when I sought help.”
She later told a Bay Area News Group reporter that she never intended to harm herself but had planned to leave town to escape from Chikhani. She wrote part of the email, she told the reporter, but claimed the portion accusing her husband had been added by someone else.
Neither Nadia Lockyer nor her staff returned telephone messages seeking comment.
Adrienne Dell, Chikhani’s attorney, said he never assaulted Nadia Lockyer, isn’t harassing her now despite her claim in the email and hasn’t hacked into her email account. He has been in a residential treatment facility for nearly two months.
Chikhani only has limited, supervised access to telephones and computers, she said. He also does not have any knowledge that the elder Lockyer provided his wife with drugs, Dell said.
“I think she was distraught and, when people are distraught, they do things that they don’t ordinarily do,” Dell said.
Aside from the damaging disclosures of drugs, alcohol and an extramarital affair, the Lockyers have both been harmed by the haphazard way she has responded, said Gerston, the political analyst.
“It’s a sad event,” he said. “There’s no winner in this.”
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