Santa Ana's City Council race, which had been fairly low key, has turned nasty.
Two last-minute mailers, one from candidate Miguel Pulido and the other from a women's group headed by former Mayor Gordon Bricken's wife, Maureen, have claimed that Vice Mayor P. Lee Johnson struck his ex-wife.
"It certainly sets a new low for the history of this city," said Johnson, who denied that he ever struck his ex-wife, Linda Lou. He said she falsely alleged in divorce court documents that he beat her.
Johnson said he issued a mailer last week written by his daughter, Sharon, in anticipation of the piece from Bricken's group, Woman's Alliance for Local Government Improvement. His daughter's letter said of the accusation that "nothing could be further from the truth."
But Pulido's mailer, Johnson said, took him by surprise. "He had indicated he was going to take the high road. I guess he fell off," he said.
The Pulido mailer was written by political consultant Mike Mercier, who also managed the successful campaign of Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Woo, and sent to 10,000 women voters between the ages of 25 and 45. Mercier said Pulido also has sent mailers to other targeted groups, including a mailer attacking pornography for precincts within two miles of the Mitchell Brothers Adult Theater; one on undocumented residents for Anglo voters and one on traffic problems for residents north of 17th Street, where the city has tried to implement a controversial commuter traffic reduction plan.
The Pulido mailer, titled "His Way, Councilman P. Lee Johnson, Finally the Truth!," reprints Mrs. Johnson's statements and includes a response from the vice mayor, which Mercier said was contained in an attachment to the court record. Circled in red ink, the statement says, in part, "I decked her."
Johnson said Monday that the quote was taken out of context and didn't relate to his ex-wife's allegations. Mercier said it was directly related.
Bricken's mailer, which was similar but used large-type excerpts from Linda Lou Johnson's statement and didn't include the vice mayor's response, was sent to 30,000 voters at a cost of about $5,000. Maureen Bricken said her group is paying for the mailer, which was written by political consultant Dave Vaporean, with some contributions from Santa Ana residents.
Johnson said Monday morning that he had no plans to issue additional mailers in response to the two pieces.
Mercier said he didn't consider the mailer a hit piece because it allegedly quoted from court documents. "I dare P. Lee Johnson to denounce this because it's all fact," he said.