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Attack ad riles 28th Assembly campaign: Mayor Luis Alejo defends record

Friday May 21, 2010

The San Jose Mercury New, May 21, 2010

Attack ad riles 28th Assembly campaign: Mayor Luis Alejo defends record


Posted: 05/21/2010 05:38:01 PM PDT
Updated: 05/21/2010 05:38:32 PM PDT

WATSONVILLE - The Democratic primary in the 28th Assembly District has turned nasty with the help of independent expenditure committees.
Both Mayor Luis Alejo and Salinas Councilwoman Janet Barnes have taken hits in negative campaign pieces.

The most recent attack, released Friday, is a cartoonish television commercial citing nine traffic tickets issued to Alejo, his failure to pay taxes and a lien placed on his home.

The ad's creators say the commercial points out facts. Alejo, who called a press conference Friday to respond, characterized it as "reckless advertising."

"They are totally misconstruing my driving record," he said. "I'm not a bad driver, but I've gotten an occasional ticket."

The ad doesn't say, for example, that the 36-year-old Alejo was 17 when he was cited for reckless driving. Nor does the ad give a time frame for the nine tickets it cites - two of which were fix-it tickets for improper lighting on his car.

The nine tickets were issued between 1992 and 2009, but Alejo received all but one since 2004. The moving violations include speeding, making an illegal left turn, failing to yield for a pedestrian and tailgating.

Alejo said the tax and lien issues raised in the ad are related to a home he bought with his father. He said his father couldn't qualify for a loan by himself, but owning a home was his dream so, like in many families, he tried to help out.

When his father retired and realized he couldn't keep up the payments, he put the house on the market, Alejo said. By then, the house was worth less than he had paid for it, and his father got behind on the property taxes while negotiating with the bank on a short sale.

Alejo talks about the loss of the house in his own television commercial, and, though he says he helped his father buy the house, doesn't mention he was a co-owner.

Many others in the 28th District have found themselves in a similar situation in recent years, Alejo said.

"I know what a lot of families are going through," he said.

The campaign should be about critical issues facing the district, such as high unemployment and insufficient health care, Alejo said. The negative attacks just turn off voters.

But Gary Davis, political director for EdVoice, a major backer of Safe Neighborhoods and Better Schools Coalition, Janet Barnes For Assembly 2010, called the ad "truth-telling."

The coalition, which has reported spending more than $200,000 to help elect Barnes, paid for the television commercial.

Alejo has "an extensive track record of reckless behavior," Davis said. "This is a guy who wants to be in the Legislature making the laws but he can't follow them."

Janet Barnes did not return a phone call, but her campaign issued a press release saying she wasn't happy about the ad and had no connection to the coalition.

Barnes said she's been running a positive campaign, but she's been attacked as well. She cited a mailer that depicts a frightened white senior citizen and a Latino flashing a gang sign. The mailer, an independent expenditure piece paid for by Service Employees International Union Local 521, links her vote to cut Salinas police hours with an uptick in gang violence.

"This mail piece is not only false, it offensively plays on racial stereotypes," Barnes said, noting she's been endorsed by the Salinas Police Officers Association.

"We've been running a positive campaign, and have called on Mr. Alejo to do the same," Barnes said. "And I wish independent groups would do so too."

Alejo's ad can be viewed at /!/video/video.php?v=10150166341615507&ref=nf.

The ad about his driving record can be seen at