An election mailer sent to Central Coast residents under the guise of a Democratic Party endorsement has Democratic voters alledging that someone is trying to dupe them into voting for a Republican.
- READ THE FINE PRINT : Registered Democrats have been receiving mailed fliers that at first glance appear to be from the Democratic Party, but endorse Republican candidates.
The slate mailers received by registered Democrats in the county’s 2nd and 3rd supervisorial districts list recommended candidates under the heading, “The Best Choices for San Luis Obispo Democrats.” The picks include incumbent Representative Lois Capps and Assembly candidate Hilda Zacarias, as well as sheriff candidate Ian Parkinson—who is a Republican.
All six candidates in the sheriff’s race are Republican, and the Democratic Central Committee (DCC)—an official committee of the California Democratic Party—has not endorsed any of the six. The office of sheriff is nonpartisan.
The mailer was not funded by the Parkinson campaign and Parkinson told New Times he was unaware of it until recently, like other candidates who appeared.
The mailer was paid for by the Democratic Voters of the Central Coast, a group that came into existence after filing a statement of organization on April 23. The filing lists a Kristina Calkins as the committee’s principal officer, yet the phone number listed for the group is the same as that of Public Policy Solutions, Inc.—the political consulting group employed by the Parkinson for Sheriff campaign.
As of March 17, Public Policy Solutions and its CEO Cory Black have been paid $45,530 by the Parkinson campaign, according to campaign finance reports.
In addition to including Parkinson on the list of “Best Choices,” the flier also includes on the back a list of picks for “The Winning Ticket” for the DCC, endorsing Ronald Sampson, John Ashbaugh, William Carlson, Marcia Munson, E. Dennis Hughes, and Walter Heath.
John Barta, webmaster for the DCC, told New Times the slate mailer is a “dirty trick” to mislead Democrats into believing Parkinson has been endorsed by the Democratic Party, as well as an attempt to “interfere with the makeup” of the Democratic Central Committee.
“What you have here is a Republican candidate’s consultant trying to shape the very makeup of a committee that did not endorse him,” Barta said.
On June 1, in response to the mailer, Pepper Hughes, DCC member and wife of current chairman Dennis Hughes, mailed a formal complaint to the enforcement division of the Fair Political Practice Commission (FPPC) in Sacramento.
“We did it to try and stop this type of stuff,” Hughes said. “This is infringing on the rights of the people who really believe in these mailers and are looking at these candidates, thinking [the DCC is] endorsing them. This is just a disgrace as far as I’m concerned.”
According to Barta, capturing the Democratic vote is imperative in the sheriff’s race. “When you have six Republicans in the race,” Barta said, “whoever the Democrats stand behind will be the winner, and Black knows that.”
Black said that though he played a role in forming Democratic Voters of the Central Coast, the organization was free to support any candidate it wished. The mailer also included a disclaimer stating it was not authorized by any candidate.
A different mailer was sent to registered Democrats in Morro Bay under the heading, “Democratic Voter Guide,” endorsing candidates for federal and state offices, including Democrats Jerry Brown for governor and Barbara Boxer for Senate, and endorsed Jerry Lenthall, a Republican, for sheriff. This mailer has a disclaimer saying it was prepared by Voter Guide Slate Cards based out of Long Beach, not by an official political party organization.