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Nadia and Bill Lockyer

Over the years, Bill and Nadia Lockyer's neighbors watched the couple walk their young son up and down their Hayward street at Christmastime, admiring the festive lights. The image of this political power couple seemed as perfect as a campaign commercial.

Everything seemed "hunky-dory" between the 70-year-old state treasurer and the 40-year-old Alameda County supervisor, said neighbor Stephen Welch. "He seemed happy. She seemed happy. I've never seen conflict or strife or anything," he said.

But this week, after stories emerged of Nadia Lockyer's substance abuse, extramarital affair and alleged beating by a former lover in a Newark motel room, she acknowledged that she had checked herself in to a drug rehabilitation center. Her husband, whose illustrious political career has spanned four decades, hunkered down in his home. The day after news of the scandal exploded, he answered the door at noon, unshaven and wearing a blue plaid bathrobe.

The seeming perfection of the couple's life in their modest split-level house high in the Hayward hills had masked addiction and deceit. Nadia Lockyer, a beautiful, ambitious woman who had hitched her star to an old political warhorse, apparently was anything but happy. In a text message sent the day after Christmas to the "other man" -- a fellow substance abuser from San Jose with whom she had her affair -- she came across as bitter and angry, all in uppercase.


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"THE LAST 3 MONTHS U PUT ME THRU HELL N BACK -- N MORE. YOU WILL SEE N FEEL THE PAIN YOUR LIES HAVE INFLICTED IN MY HEART SOUL EVERY MOMENT YOU FIND YOURSELF ALONE OR BORED WITH ANOTHER," she wrote to Stephen Chikhani in the text message.

A friend of Chikhani's showed the series of text messages -- sent from Nadia Lockyer's cellphone number -- to this newspaper, and the Lockyers' representatives did not dispute their veracity. The friend said that Chikhani and Nadia Lockyer met while they were in a rehab program in 2010.

An hour after sending the Dec. 26 text, Nadia Lockyer sent Chikhani another: "You stole my house key AND a radioshack giftcard," she wrote. "If you don't return both ASAP tonight (or the Iphone you got with card) by leaving them both at our front door TONIGHT -- Bill's security will have to take you into custody. Just leave it at door asap -- before its too late -- please. We're far away."

Court records show Chikhani, 35, has been in trouble with the law at least 10 times since 1997. In 2010, he was stopped in San Jose for driving erratically and ended up spending 90 days in jail for possession of methamphetamine. He was arrested again in September for possessing and being under the influence of the drug.

Nadia Lockyer told Newark police that Chikhani attacked her Feb. 3 at a Newark motel and that she suffered head and neck injuries requiring medical treatment.

Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, said Friday that the case has been transferred to the state Attorney General's Office because Nadia Lockyer once ran a program out of the DA's office.

In an interview, Chikhani accused the Lockyers of fabricating the allegations but would not elaborate.

Tom Dresslar, Bill Lockyer's spokesman, would address only the text message in which Nadia Lockyer threatened to send "Bill's security" after Chikhani.

"Lockyer's security detail would never be used for that purpose, but it's understandable why she would say that," Dresslar said. "Obviously she was afraid of Chikhani and what he might do to her and her family."

Ruben Briones, Nadia Lockyer's interim chief of staff, refused to say whether she had ever been in rehabilitation before, or what drugs she has abused.

Will Nadia Lockyer be able to survive politically?

Maybe, said Republican political consultant Dan Schnur, who in 2003 had called the Lockyers' relationship "a match made in political heaven." He added that "it will be the first wedding registry in California history with contribution limits."

This week, Schnur, who now directs the University of Southern California's Unruh Institute of Politics, was less glib. "It's worth assuming that both of them are paying a lot more attention to her physical and mental well-being than any future political considerations," he said. "But if she gets the help she needs in rehabilitation and comes out a better person for it, voters can be remarkably forgiving of personal transgressions.

"Everybody falls down. The question is how you get back up again."

By the time Bill Lockyer met Nadia Maria Davis about a decade ago, he was a Democratic political giant serving as California's attorney general after 25 years in the Legislature. Twice married earlier in life, he'd long been a bachelor and had weathered accusations of inappropriate statements to women in the 1980s.

Her father had been a renowned immigrant-rights lawyer, and she had cut her political teeth in Orange County by working on campaigns and winning a four-year term on the Santa Ana Unified School District board. When they met, she was four years younger than his daughter from one of his previous marriages.

A 1999 car accident had left her with 22 broken bones and a punctured lung. Welch, the Lockyers' neighbor, said Bill Lockyer at some point had "mentioned her car accident and how badly her middle had crushed and she wasn't supposed to be able to have children."

But two months after they wed in April 2003, their son was born. Nadia Lockyer had already opened a committee for a possible Assembly bid, and her husband was exploring a 2006 run for governor. But instead, they threw themselves into parenting.

The power couple's endorsements and fundraising support was sought by Democrats near and far. And by the time she sought election to the board of supervisors in November 2010, her husband -- among the state's most prolific Democratic fundraisers -- had transferred about $1.5 million from his campaign committee to hers, allowing her to swamp her rivals in a blizzard of direct mail and advertising.

One of those competitors was former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol, who for a time in the 1990s had dated Bill Lockyer. They often went to the movies, Figueroa said. "We were mostly friends," she said. "He had an incredible sense of humor."

Yet Figueroa wasn't laughing when the Lockyers accused her during the 2010 campaign of misleading voters into thinking she lived in the county.

"He's not the same person," she said this week. "A lot of us have noticed."

When they dated, Figueroa said, he was filled with political ambition "and going to run for governor. You don't hear that anymore."

Figueroa said "there was always something odd" about how Nadia Lockyer campaigned that year. "She always seemed she needed people around her, needed to be coaxed, either Bill or a staffer. She always had to be staffed."

But Figueroa never suspected a substance-abuse problem.

Former Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer has known Bill Lockyer for decades and lives near the Lockyers in Hayward. Plummer said he's not worried about his neighbors' political futures. And he praised them for coming clean so quickly.

"Too often politicians try to hide it or blame something else," Plummer said. "It's just awful they have to go through this. It's just a tragic thing. I feel sorry for them."

Staff writer Tracey Kaplan contributed to this report. Contact Josh Richman at jrichman@bayareanewsgroup.com. Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at jsulek@mercurynews.com.