State Republicans filed a formal complaint Monday about a mailer in the 28th Senate District, contending it resembled an official communication from Secretary of State Debra Bowen but in fact was financed and sent by the state Democratic Party.
The Republicans complained that Bowen illegally allowed the use of her name and office in describing the mailer as “Important Information from the Secretary of State.” The complaint also named the California Democratic Party for financing the mailing. The complaint, which also targeted party chaimrnan John Burton, was signed by John Stammreich, the Republican contender for the 28th District Seat.
The complaint was filed with state Attorney General Jerry Brown – a Democrat running for governor – and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican running for attorney general.
The mailer reminded voters that the name of the late Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, who died Oct. 23, was still on the ballot. Oropeza had been expected to win the race handily.
“You have the right to vote for her. If you do, and she wins, there will be a special election called,” the mailer noted, under Bowen’s typed signature. “You will then be able to thoughtfully consider who will represent you in the Senate for the next four years.” The document apparently was sent out to voters in the 28th Senate District. It was identified as being “paid for by the California Democratic Party.”
The state GOP said the mailer was intended to boost the chances for a special election and to maximize the likelihood that a Democrat would be elected to fill Oropeza’s vacant seat.
“The (Republican) party’s view is that it was a blatant attempt to influence a vote,’ said Sacramento attorney Charles Bell, the state GOP’s general counsel, who described the mailer as a “false and fraudulent” use of an official communication. The mailer was intended to look like state paperwork, he added.
“It was in kind of a mailgram format, with yellow paper, their knockoff of a Western Union telegram,” Bell said.
Democrats quickly labeled the GOP’s action as politically motivated.
“This so-called ‘complaint’ is laughably frivolous and not worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Jason Kinney, a Democratic spokesman and strategist for the Senate Democratic Caucus, which crafted the mailer.
“The mail piece in question clearly identifies the sender as the California Democratic Party, it bears no seal, letterhead or formal markings and no one in their right mind could interpret this letter as an official document.”
Bowen campaign spokesman Steve Barkan, who noted that the document was “clearly identified as being from the California Democratic Party,” said that Bowen “didn’t approve the mailer, in fact she wasn’t asked to.”
“She provided a quote which is a simple statement of fact. People can vote for Senator Oropeza, those votes will be tallied, and if she gets the most votes there will be a special election to fill the vacancy.”