Letter on Benicia Mayor’s race: ‘Disturbing to be repetitively assaulted by non-fact-based, character-smearing tactics’

Letter to the editor by Judi Sullivan of Benicia, October 23, 2020

‘This is the same PAC that infected our last election…’

Judi Sullivan, Benicia

As a Benicia resident, I find it disturbing to be repetitively assaulted by non-fact-based, character-smearing tactics showing up again in our city election via a well-funded, mass media/mailing PAC campaign. This is the same PAC that infected our last election with a series of lies slandering a well-qualified candidate. The PAC responsible for this behavior, titled, “Working Families for a Strong Benicia,” has The Valero Refinery listed as its main donor. The purpose of the PAC’s multiple forms of mass advertising is to support one candidate while at the same time, (flip side of the flyer), falsely slandering another for the position of our Benicia Mayor.

Do they feel their chosen candidate, Christina Strawbridge, is not capable of being elected on her own merits? Their desperate need to slam her opponent belies her own credibility. From an educated voter’s point of view, this ploy is disrespectful to both individuals.

The negative campaigning from our last election led to the citizen-suggested concept of creating a “Code of Ethics” among candidates for future city elections. Instigation of this code was adopted in response to the dirty politics we had just experienced.

Where is the accountability to this new “Code of Ethics” showing up in this election? What different, proactive responses are candidates taking to respond to the same debacle faced in 2018, prompting the need for this code? Some candidates running now, ( Steve Young, Christina Strawbridge and Tom Campbell), worked on creating this code.

So far, “Code of Ethics” credit is due to three current candidates who have chosen to take an active stand in response to the PAC’s repeatedly offensive negative modus operandi. They are Steve Young, along with Jason Diavatis, both of whom are running for Mayor, and Terry Scott for City Council. In addition, they offered alternative suggestions of more beneficial ways the PAC could support the needs of our city during these times of COVID & economic duress through the use of their abundant discretionary income. If interested, check out their quarter page newspaper ad in the Sunday, Oct. 11th edition of “The Benicia Herald.” These candidates are thanked for having the courage to publicly make a strong stand against dirty politics in our elections. I was hoping all of you would do so. If you took this stance repeatedly, dishonest negative politics could not be substantiated. Your continued collective outcry for lack of decency would undermine that game plan, no matter how much money went into the effort. As candidates, you have that power should you choose to use it. As citizens, we have that power, too.

The PAC referred to has knowingly overextended our city’s mandated contribution limits to run a campaign. No more than $34,200 per individual candidate is allowed to be raised by a campaign as regulated by our city’s election ordinance. This limit was set up for the purpose of keeping an even playing field where campaign financial contributions are concerned. However, over $200,00 this year has been spent so far by this PAC in support of Christina Strawbridge for Mayor. Last election she and Lionel Largaespada were funded by this same PAC. Needless to say, whomever the PAC supports has an unfair advantage financially and exposure-wise in the their attempt to “buy a seat(s)” in our city government.

Since 2010, when the CITIZENS UNITED National Mandate was formed, PAC’s have been enabled to contribute unlimited amounts to campaigns. Unfortunately, Federal Law super cedes our own city’s Election Ordinance Mandate. Although we cannot legally stop this influx of excess money from entering our elections, we can each voice our concerns for the inequity it creates by going against our local mandate. Under these circumstances, what is legal does not necessarily fall into the category of being ethical. I am also asking for ethical campaigning. For each candidate to stand up against obviously slanderous negative statements that are so offensive to most of us, regardless of whether it is denigrating our chosen candidate or another. It’s a despicable practice misrepresenting candidates.

I am requesting ALL candidates and funders of campaign strategies to focus on policy-based campaigning, using the foundation of facts, past and current experience
relevant to the position sought, along with accurate depictions of facets of the candidate’s character relating to the job they are seeking. What a refreshing change that would be!

Each of you can stand on your own merits. Do any of you really want to win based on maligned misinformation spread about your opponent? That is not a clean “win.” I hope each of you will step up by demonstrating the desire for a fair, honest election through consistent actions taken towards producing that goal. That may include daily repetitive comments to discount disreputable injustices propagated by surly ad campaigns. Each candidate, or preferably the candidates as a collective, can choose to demonstrate the strength and purpose of the newly formed “Code of Ethics.” Otherwise, this code is merely a collection of words on paper.

Respectfully submitted,
Judith S. Sullivan
41-year Benicia resident