Attacks lobbed in CA legislative races with out candidates
by Matthew S. Bajko
Three races for California legislative seats with out candidates have turned nasty as the 2012 campaign season comes to a close.
And in a noteworthy twist, the negative attacks have had nothing to do with the trio's sexual orientation.
In Oakland, Assembly candidate Abel Guillen, who identifies as two spirit and dates both men and women, has had to defend himself against attacks that he has done nothing "to protect those least able to protect themselves."
Out in the Central Valley, lesbian Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is in a heated battle for a state Senate seat. She has faced questions due to an Associated Press article detailing a little known rule that allows state lawmakers to change their voting records.
And Galgiani has called out as "appalling" an ad about her record on taxes and vehicle perks. The Sacramento Bee deemed it to be misleading and factually "untrue or exaggerated."
The most heated contest appears to be down in Los Angeles, where gay Latino activist Luis Lopez and nurses' lobbyist Jimmy Gomez have been attacking each other for weeks as they fight for an Assembly seat.
One claim lobbed against Gomez is that he hates, of all things, polar bears. Domestic violence advocates have also criticized Gomez for accepting a campaign donation from Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina).
It was revealed this week that Hernandez, who was found not guilty of drunken driving charges after being pulled over in Concord earlier this year, was served with an emergency protective order Sunday after a woman accused him of physically abusing her. Hernandez's campaign refutes the charges and has called them politically motivated.
(Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
Gomez, in turn, has lashed out against Lopez's "smear tactics" saying that because Lopez "cannot win on his record ... he has stooped to Karl Rove-style lies and distortions."
With less than a week to go before Election Day, the political atmosphere in races up and down the state has turned increasingly negative. In some cases it stems in part from intra-party fights between candidates pitted against one another due to redistricting or the top-two primary system.
Independent groups have also been flooding certain races, as they are no longer restrained in how much money they can spend on their favored candidates.
Groups aligned with Republicans are also fearful of seeing the Democrats reach a super-majority in the state Senate, and though more of a long shot, in the Assembly. The Democrats must pick up two seats in each chamber to meet the two-thirds threshold needed to pass tax increases without GOP votes.
Galgiani's bid for the newly created Senate District 5 seat is seen as one of those pickup seats. She is facing a strong challenge, though, from Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton).
The Democrats have a slight voter advantage in the Stockton-based district, but political pundits consider the race a toss-up. Gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) described the contest as "tight" and a "barn burner" in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter .
LGBT groups have been working hard to back Galgiani, who came out of the closet last fall. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Equality California's political action committee and the Central Valley Stonewall Democratic Club have all endorsed her campaign and helped fundraise for her.
In a recent email her campaign sent out, Galgiani noted that it has been "a long campaign. But it's almost over." And she has tried to turn the ads against her to her advantage, asking supporters to donate to her campaign so she can "answer these negative attacks!"
Guillen has also tried to take advantage of the independent expenditures against him in order to boost his own campaign coffers as he faces off against Alameda City Councilman Rob Bonta for the open 18th Assembly District seat. Several emails sent in recent days by his campaign have detailed the actions Guillen has taken as a member of the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees.
"People who know me understand I have dedicated my whole life to preserving the social safety net in our community, and to helping those who can't speak for themselves," Guillen wrote in one email.
Bonta's camp, in turn, claims that Guillen was the first candidate to go negative, breaking a pledge to run a positive campaign, by sending out a mailer critical of Bonta for supporting the purchase of a specialized emergency vehicle for the Alameda Police Department.
"This is what you do when you have zero credentials related to public safety or K-12 education," stated Bonta campaign consultant Mark Capitolo.
The salvos seem tame compared to the charges being exchanged between Lopez and Gomez in the race for the 51st Assembly District, based in the Echo Park and Eagle Rock neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
Lopez's campaign has played up the claims that Gomez is anti-polar-bear, which stem from the fact that several donors to Gomez's bid are hunting lobbyists and pushed for a federal bill to allow the carcasses of the endangered artic mammals shot in Canada to be imported to the U.S.
This week a Lopez email attacking Gomez stated, "He will take money from any source, no matter how despicable."
Ever since a poll in late September showed him with a 13-point lead in the race, Gomez has claimed that Lopez and his supporters have resorted to lies and deceits. He contends he has been falsely accused of not legally residing in the district and has called out Lopez for saying in a mailer that he is the "only Democrat" in the race.
The Democratic Party is backing Gomez, leading Eric C. Bauman, a gay man who is chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, to complain that Lopez's "deceptive behavior is wrong and misleads voters. The Democratic Party demands these distortions cease immediately."
The increasingly bitter contest between Lopez and Gomez is in stark contrast to the fairly friendly match-up between lesbian Stockton City Councilwoman Susan Talamantes Eggman and her Republican opponent, K. "Jeffrey" Jafri, for the 13th Assembly District seat. Eggman is favored to win, and if she does, will become the first out female of color elected to the state Legislature.
There are five other out incumbent state lawmakers on the ballot next week, all of whom are expected to win their races. In San Francisco Democrats state Senator Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano face little competition from their GOP opponents, local party chair Harmeet K. Dhillon and gay lawyer Jason Clark, respectively.
On the Peninsula Gordon is expected to easily defeat his GOP challenger, Chengzhi "George" Yang, for the newly drawn 24th Assembly District.
Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) is set to claim a third term representing Assembly District 53 while Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is running unopposed for the newly drawn Senate District 33 seat.
And Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is seen as the favored candidate against gay GOPer Ralph Denney for the 78th Assembly District seat.