In the News

'Mud slinging' ad turns up volume on Assembly race between Alejo, Barnes campaigns

Monday May 24, 2010
By The Salinas Californian

The Salinas Californian,May 22, 2010

'Mud slinging' ad turns up volume on Assembly race between Alejo, Barnes campaigns



Talk of traffic tickets, late taxes and tobacco money took over the District 28 Assembly campaign debate Friday between Watsonville Mayor Luis Alejo and Salinas City Councilwoman Janet Barnes.

The two will compete in the June 8 primary for the Democratic nomination to succeed Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, who is running for state Senate.

The day began with television stations airing a new ad that targets Alejo for nine traffic citations he's received in the last 20 years and for his handling of property tax bills. Alejo called a noon press conference at Tarpy's Roadhouse in Monterey to respond.

An independent expenditure, not the Barnes campaign, paid for the ad. Between April 22 and May 5, pro-Barnes independent groups such as Hollister-based Safe Neighborhoods and Better Schools Coalition, along with EdVoice and the state Farm Bureau, spent about $139,000 on the campaign.

Alejo acknowledged having received nine tickets in 20 years. "Some were fix-it tickets, with a broken tail-light, or were dismissed," he said, and none involved injuries or driving under the influence. The ad mentions a citation for "reckless driving" issued when Alejo was 17.

The candidate, who is also a staff attorney for Monterey County Superior Court, is 36. His driving record is irrelevant to the issues in the election, Alejo said.

"She [Barnes] accuses me of reckless driving," he said. "This is something that occurred 19 years ago. It's a clear example of reckless advertising."

Barnes does not speak in the ad, but is pictured in and endorsed by it. Nevertheless, she said Friday she was dissatisfied.

"I'm not happy about the ad ... listing Mr. Alejo's traffic violations and financial issues," Barnes said in a statement. "We have no connection with these independent groups, and I hope and trust that is true of Mr. Alejo's campaign."

Barnes had objections of her own as to how the campaign has been going.

"There has been a phone campaign making false claims about me, such as that I'm a Republican and that I take tobacco money," she said. "I am a proud, life-long Democrat, and my father died of lung cancer when I was 21. I don't take tobacco money."

Earlier in the campaign, Alejo told The Salinas Californian that the independent expenditure committees backing Barnes "have traditionally supported Republican candidates."

He could not be reached to respond to Barnes' late-afternoon complaint about the phone campaign.

The other issue in the pro-Barnes ad concerns Alejo and the payment of property taxes.

"When my father got behind on his house payments, he got behind on paying those taxes," Alejo said. "I co-signed on the deed to try to help him. We couldn't save it from foreclosure; he had to sell it in a short sale. When it was sold, [the taxes] were squared away." The back taxes were about $4,000, he said.

Alejo said the pro-Barnes ad showed "desperation." Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Monterey, who backs him, called it "mud slinging."

"When your candidate is behind and losing, campaign consultants start running negative ads to try to bridge the gap," Monning said. "That's Campaign Consulting 1A."