Monday, May 14, 2012

50th Assembly Race: Dirty Tricks (Not) Done Dirt Cheap

Campaign consultant Richie Ross and Betsy Butler
While reading an LA Times story this morning on how the June 5th primary will be a key test for the state's new "top two" (aka "open",  aka "jungle") primary,  I was struck by a section on the 50th Assembly District race.

In describing how candidates in districts with lopsided partisan registration used to be able to only have to worry about winning the party primary before coasting to victory in the runoff, the story uses the AD50 race as an example of how it's possible under the new rules for two members of the same party to square off not only in the primary, but in the November general election as well.

In the 50th district, Democrats hold a 52% to 19% registration advantage over Republicans, while nearly 24% of voters are unaffiliated.....(Candidates) Osborn and Butler have raised more than $600,000 apiece, and most observers expect them to face each other in the fall. Richard Bloom has raised $260,570 and (Republican) Brad Torgan, $425.

Osborn has sent out 10 political (mostly biographical) mail ads, starting in mid-April. Butler so far has sent three.

Ritchie Ross, who is Butler's (campaign) consultant, said he and the assemblywoman have "plenty of gasoline left in our tank" for the remaining three weeks of the campaign. He added that voters in primaries usually don't pay attention until then.

That statement from Ross is something to pay attention to. Why?

Because three weeks before election day is exactly when campaigns start going negative. Something Butler's campaign consultant Ross is famous for doing.

In a 2005 story on California campaign consultants, the LA Times had this to say about Ross:

Dirty Deed: Writes mailer falsely linking Richard Katz to Latino voter suppression in Orange County, when Katz had actually defended voter rights, 1998. Katz loses state Assembly race by 29 votes to Alarcon.

Quotable: "So am I as pure? No. Have I done my share of selling out? You bet. Have I done things that I'm not proud of? You better believe it." -- San Francisco Chronicle, September 2003.

The Book on Ross: Plays to win at any cost, both financially and ethically.

In fact, Ross' mailer for Alarcon was so inflammatory, Katz sued for defamation.

More recently, working as a consultant for CA State Senate conservo-dem candidate Jason Hodge in the SD19 (Ventura) race, he's tried to misrepresent Hodges' more progressive opponent, Hannah-Beth Jackson, as a proponent of off-shore oil drilling.

Endorsed by the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters,  Jackson is considered an environmental champion. In the Assembly she was Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, Chair of the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, and Chair of the Select Committee on Coastal Protection. She's repeatedly gone on the record as opposing oil drilling off the coast of California, even co-authoring a resolution asking the President to permanently ban any new offshore oil drilling.

Yet despite this, Ross has worked overtime to paint Jackson as pro-drilling by exploiting Jackson's roll in a complicated and controversial negotiation for the Tranquillon Ridge project, which would have allowed the construction of a new oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara in return for millions in oil extraction taxes and the closing of 4 other platforms in the same area.

While the efficacy of that project is certainly up for debate, Jackson's intention was to decrease oil drilling, not increase it. Using it to say Jackson is pro-oil drilling is a blatant lie. One that Hodge and the campaign consultant he shares with Betsy Butler is more than happy to tell voters over and over and over again.

Unfortunately, we can expect no less in the 50th Assembly District.

I'm hearing rumors that Assembly Speaker Perez, alarmed by recent polling, is doubling-down on his investment in Butler,  hiring canvassers and professional phone-bankers, as well as forcing his caucus members to cough up tens of thousands more to shore up Butler's campaign.

Expect that money to translate into a barrage of negative mailers. Osborn certainly does, recently sending out an email to supporters urging them to volunteer to help her get out the vote.

"Open primary, jungle primary, top-two primary -- whatever you call it, it means that we need every supporter on deck right now. In 26 days, the top two vote-getters -- either two Dems, or a Dem and a Republican -- will win the primary and head to the general election," wrote Osborn. "Our campaign's passion in the next few weeks will determine if I'm one of those two people. And, if I place #1, it puts me in strong position to win in November."

Absentee ballots started going out last week.

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