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Glendale city clerk blasts campaign ads from backer of councilwoman, opponent in state Assembly race

Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian used a Wednesday press conference to criticize an independent expenditure for running negative campaign ads about him on behalf of Councilwoman Laura Friedman, one of his opponents in the local race for state Assembly.

The independent expenditure, or I.E., is an organization that has raised and spent money separate of Friedman and her campaign, but in her support. It has garnered nearly $1 million in donations — a high sum for a local election.

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Friedman and Kassakhian are among a field of eight candidates vying to replace outgoing state Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), who’s termed out of his 43rd Assembly District seat. Friedman and Kassakhian are both Democrats running in the June 7 primary; the top two candidates will face off in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Kassakhian’s remarks followed a report on the California Secretary of State website showing that the Parent Teacher Alliance, which is sponsored by the California Charter Schools Assn., had bought mailers and television ads criticizing him in support of Friedman.

The letters said he was responsible for uncounted ballots during elections and that he used his power to remove a female school board candidate from the ballot after she failed to make a filing deadline. He denies the accusations.

“I’m hoping that voters will reject the special interest trying to buy a seat for a candidate that will do their bidding in Sacramento,” Kassakhian said in a phone interview. “I know that the voters will see right through this attempt to buy their voices and they will reject special interests infiltrating their backyard.”

It’s taken a more aggressive turn. It’s a little bit distracting from the work that we have to do as a city.

— Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian on Laura Friedman and Ardy Kassakhian campaigning against each other

Friedman said she is not involved with the attack ads and hasn’t been in communication with the alliance.

The mailers produced by her campaign focus on her accomplishments and political career, she said, adding, “It’s frustrating for a candidate because you put your own message out and we don’t have any control over what other groups do.”

Aside from the nearly $1 million in independent expenditures, Friedman has raised $502,704 and has $183,956 banked with less than three weeks left until the primary.

Kassakhian raised $438,614 and as of April 23 had $250,985 in cash on hand.

There’s also been pro-Kassakhian independent expenditures of $300,546 paid for by the California Assn. of Realtors, the California Apartment Assn. and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

At his press conference outside City Hall, Kassakhian was flanked by numerous supporters, including Councilman Zareh Sinanyan.

Kassakhian has also received endorsements from the California Labor Federation, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the California Teachers Assn.

Friedman has won endorsements from Gatto, the National Organization for Women (NOW) California, the California Nurses Assn. and the Glendale City Employees’ Assn.

Councilman Ara Najarian, who’s not endorsing either candidate, said two locally elected officials campaigning against each other has made for some uncomfortable moments at City Hall.

“It’s taken a more aggressive turn,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a little bit distracting from the work that we have to do as a city.”

Najarian added that executive staff and the management team have been careful to remain neutral, but depending on how the race goes, there could be some carry over after Election Day.

“I think the more aggressive and personal [the election] gets, the more of an aftertaste there’s going to be for everyone after the election,” he said.

The 43rd Assembly District includes Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada-Flintridge and other communities. Also in the race are Andrew J. Blumenfeld, Dennis R. Bullock, Alexandra Bustamante, Aaron Cervantes, Rajiv Dalal and Mark J. Mac Carley.

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Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

Twitter: @ArinMikailian

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