At first glance, the “Democratic Voter Guide” that some Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach residents received this week seems like just another piece of election-time clutter.
But closer inspection reveals something interesting: Several local candidates listed in the pamphlet are Republicans.
Now the Costa Mesa Democratic Club is crying foul.
“It’s a pretty diabolical partisan gamesmanship maneuver in most people’s estimation,” said club Chairman Brandon Love, who lives in the city’s Mesa del Mar neighborhood.
Love said he received the four-page flier Wednesday and saw it listed current Mayor Sandy Genis — who is seeking election to the post she was appointed to last year — and District 3 City Council candidate Brett Eckles under the heading “The choices of progressive Democrats in Costa Mesa.”
However, in both races, the Democratic Party of Orange County has endorsed their opponents: Councilwoman Katrina Foley for mayor and Andrea Marr for District 3.
Another version of the mailer swaps out Eckles for Michelle Figueredo-Wilson, a council candidate in Costa Mesa’s District 4. The county Democratic Party is supporting one of her opponents, Manuel Chavez.
Eckles said Thursday that his campaign bought a spot on a slate mailer and that he didn’t know how it would look ahead of time.
“As with any slate mailer, I’m only in charge of or responsible for the content about myself,” he said.
Though he is endorsed by the Republican Party of Orange County, Eckles said he “has support from individuals in District 3 from all sorts of political persuasions.”
Genis said Thursday that she doesn’t know how her name ended up on the mailer.
“I have no idea about anything that has to do with that,” she said. “I haven’t seen it.”
However, she said it’s “not all that uncommon for people to be on slate mailers that imply they’re from another party.” She called it “one of those goofy things that happen” around election time.
Eckles sent the Daily Pilot an image of a slate mailer apparently put out by a group called Continuing the Republican Revolution that includes Foley.
Figueredo-Wilson did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Thursday.
In Huntington Beach, a similar flier was mailed to residents listing Republican Mayor Mike Posey as “the choice of Huntington Beach Democrats for City Council.” It lists his endorsements, recent accomplishments and plans for the city if he is reelected.
Posey, one of 15 candidates in next week’s council election, said he bought space on a slate mailer but “didn’t have any input over it.”
He said he doesn’t think it’s misleading to voters but said he would seek advice from his consultant.
“It doesn’t say I’m from the Democratic Party, and it’s truthful that I am endorsed by police and fire,” he said.
The pamphlets include a disclaimer saying the document “was prepared by Orange County Voter Guide, not an official political party organization.” However, that notice is next to a symbol of a donkey in red, white and blue — much like the insignia typically associated with the Democratic Party.
“It’s a blatantly misleading piece that really borders on the brink of being trademark and copyright infringement,” Love said.
It’s unclear who is behind the pamphlet, which lists a post office box in Anaheim but no other identifying information.
An active slate mailer organization with the name Orange County Voter Guide is registered with the California secretary of state’s office, but calls to the listed phone number were not answered Thursday and the voicemail box was full.