Representatives of the local Democratic party are taking issue with a political mailer that includes a candidate for county supervisor along with the names of Democrats running for governor, senator, Congress, state senator and state assembly in Tuesday’s primary election.
David Mason, a candidate for Del Norte’s District 4 supervisor seat, appears on political mailers titled “Democratic Voter Guide,” which recommends people vote John Chiang for governor, Dave Jones for attorney general, Dianne Feinstein for U.S. senator and Jared Huffman for Congress.
Mason’s name appears directly below Tony K. Thurmond, candidate for California superintendent of public instruction. While the seat Thurmond is running for is nonpartisan, according to the California Secretary of State website, Chiang, Jones, Feinstein and Huffman are all Democrats.
Mason, the mailer states, has been endorsed by the Republican Party.
Brian Stone and James Ramsey, co-vice chairs of the Del Norte County Democrat Party, call the mailers deceptive. They compare it to a similar situation that occurred just before the November 2016 election in which the names of county supervisors Roger Gitlin and Bob Berkowitz, both registered Republicans, appeared on a “Democratic Voter Guide” mailer alongside Democrats Hillary Clinton, Loretta Sanchez, Huffman and Wood.
“What happens is it’s geared toward older voters that will take something like that to the voting booth because that’s what they’ve always done,” Ramsey said. “I’m really tired of the lies that this other party is telling.”
Mason said he didn’t intend to be deceptive. He said he paid $750 to be included in the mailers, which are printed by Long Beach-based Voter Guide Slate Cards. Mason said his name is also included in similar mailers for Republican and Independent voters.
Mason said he was under the impression the mailer would make it clear that he is running for a non-partisan office. According to him, paying to be included in the mailers was the cheapest way for him to get his name out to everybody, but the end result “wasn’t really what I wanted.”
“You don’t get to proof it before it goes out,” Mason said of the ad. “You get 25 words and your name and that’s it and they have final say in editing.”
Since Jan. 1, Mason has received $9,247 in monetary contributions and has put forth about $2,000 of his own money to his campaign. The largest monetary contribution, $5,000, comes from Jerry Mason, of Aliso Viejo, while John and Debbie Thompson, owners of Trees of Mystery, donated $1,000.
In terms of non-monetary contributions, Berkowitz donated advertising in the Triplicate — worth $1,000 — to Mason’s campaign.
In addition to spending $750 to Voter Guide Slate Cards for inclusion in the political slate mailers, Mason’s largest expenditures include $1,158.21 to The Mail Room for literature, $576.63 to Banners on the Cheap and $324 to Indianapolis-based Political Bank for internet services.
Although the “Democratic Voter Guide” mailer lists the voter’s polling place and encourages them to take the card with them when they vote, in fine print it states that the document was not printed by an official party organization.
“Appearance in this mailer does not necessarily imply endorsement of others appearing in this mailer, nor does it imply endorsement of, or opposition to, any issues set forth in this matter. Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an asterisk, or *.”
According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, a slate mailer is a mass mailing that supports or opposes a total of four or more candidates or ballot measures. Slate mailer organizations are required to disclose payments made and received in connection with producing slate mailers, according to the FPPC.
Del Norte County Clerk-Recorder Alissia Northrup said slate mailers like those created by Voter Guide Slate Cards are legal, however whether being included in one is ethical or moral would be up to an individual candidate. She said Mason’s inclusion in the “Democratic Voter Guide” when he is endorsed by the Republican party has generated a lot of phone calls to her office.
“They feel like they’ve been had,” Northrup said. “It is deceiving and misleading to somebody who doesn’t know. I have the advantage of working in elections. To somebody at home that’s just a regular voter, the parties do actually send out suggestion cards, so how do they know which one is which unless they read this little tiny print?”
Incumbent candidate for District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, who has been endorsed by the local Democratic party, said he too thinks the mailers are deceptive. He noted that since county supervisor is non-partisan, political party shouldn’t come into play when deciding who should fill that seat.
“I think it shows maybe even a lack of commitment to your own party that you belong to and certainly a lack of integrity,” Hemmingsen said of the mailers. “I just don’t think there’s any value to it. Unfortunately, people sometimes vote by those slate mailers or voter guides and they’re kind of disingenuous. They don’t always show the true thing.”
The other two candidates in the District 4 race, Ron Phillips and Roger Daley felt that Mason paying to be included in the Democratic mailer was a political strategy.
Phillips said although being on the “Democratic Voter Guide” mailer made it appear that Mason is a Democrat, by also being included in mailers for independent and Republican voters he’s trying to reach all parties.
“We all want to reach all of the voters in that district whether they’re Democrat, Republican, pink, yellow, blue, whatever,” Phillips said. “I guess if he wants to spend his money that way... I didn’t have the money to do that.”
Daley said Mason paying to be included in a slate mailer isn’t a big deal to him.
“It sounds like he’s advertising every place he can,” Daley said.
Ramsey noted the mailers are not only confusing to senior citizens, but voters in general due to how extensive the June 5 ballot is. He pointed out that names on the mailers, with the exception of Mason and Thurmond, are Democratic candidates.
“It’s unethical and that’s not what I want in my supervisor,” Ramsey said. “I want somebody that’ll work with people and be honest with people and be thoroughly ethical in the long run.”
However, Mason said in the space he was given to tell voters about himself, he stated clearly that he is endorsed by the Republican Party, but he didn’t get to see a proof before it was sent to voters.
“It’s kind of a gamble,” Mason said. “At the time, it seemed like a good idea. If I thought it was going to come out looking the way it did I probably wouldn’t have done that. That’s the downside with going with economical advertising, you don’t always get what you’re hoping for.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .