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Down to the Wire, Rivals in S.B.’s Hottest Race Battle over Bizarre Calls


Originally published 5:00 p.m., May 29, 2012
Updated 6:00 a.m., May 30, 2012

NOTES FROM THE FINAL STRETCH: Democrats Jason Hodge and Hannah-Beth Jackson, after earlier clashes in the heated 19th State Senate District race over state finances, special interest money, and personal integrity, have found something new to fight about: the weather.

In the final days before the June 5 primary, Hodge’s camp is accusing Jackson of hijacking a National Weather Service emergency number in order to disguise her campaign’s sponsorship of annoying automated calls being pitched to area voters.

Jason Hodge
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Jason Hodge

“Last week, just as we were being notified by the National Weather Service of fire danger, voters were receiving campaign phone calls from Hannah-Beth Jackson’s campaign from the same telephone number,” Jeff Donabedian, president of the Oxnard Firefighters Association, said in an email. Hodge belongs to the union and has received substantial financial support from fire and emergency services organizations around the state.

“The telephone number that appeared on caller ID was the number first responders rely on to receive fire danger alerts and tsunami warnings from the National Weather Service,” Donabedian added. Among those who received the bizarre calls, he said, is “a deputy sheriff [who] reported receiving the call from the number we rely on to alert us, only to find himself on the receiving end of a Jackson campaign pitch.”

Jackson manager Rudy Ramirez said that the problem occurred because of a “technical error” made by the marketing call center vendor used by the campaign. The Weather Service number was flashed as the caller ID on “several hundred calls” because of a glitch in another project the company was working on that used “randomized numbers,” he said.

Jackson’s calls were not supposed to have a caller name ID on them; the vendor discovered the problem after about 45 minutes and corrected it so that no caller ID now displays when Jackson’s calls are made to voters. “I wouldn’t think the National Weather Service would be a way to get people to pick up the phone anyway,” Ramirez added, with a shake of the head.

Late Tuesday, Jackson’s campaign announced it had fired Signia Marketing of Denver, the vendor responsible for the mistake, and the candidate said the calls were “not an attempt to intentionally mislead anybody.”

As Jimmy Buffett famously said, “The weather’s here — wish you were beautiful.”

MOTHER’S MILK OF POLITICS: While Republican Mike Stoker is confident he’ll win one of the two top spots in next week’s voting, Hodge and Jackson both keep aggressively raising and spending campaign cash in their bids to move on the November runoff.

Hannah Beth Jackson
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Hannah Beth Jackson

New campaign finance reports show that Jackson raised $218,024 in the last quarter alone, giving her a total of $491,764 in contributions, with $158,975 cash on hand. Hodge raised $195,013 during the last reporting period, for a total of $338,416 and $132,246 in the bank.

Jackson has made an issue of Hodge receiving most of his money from outside the district, including large sums from special interests, including oil, insurance, and tobacco organizations. But the new reports show that nearly $90,000 has been spent on her behalf during the past week by the California Alliance, an independent expenditure committee financed in large part by the powerful trial lawyers lobby.

SEX AND POLITICS: Assemblymember Das Williams, an overwhelming favorite to win reelection in the 37th Assembly District, received some favorable publicity recently for his bill to impose a $10-a-customer tax on strip clubs that serve alcohol, with the revenue earmarked for services for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

When Williams rolled out his legislation, his spokesperson James Joyce, told reporters, “There is evidence that shows a nexus between [sexual] violence and strip club establishments.”

Not so, said Daniel Linz, a UCSB professor in the Department of Communications who has studied the issue: “Our research shows little evidence for such a connection,” Linz told The Santa Barbara Independent.

Linz was featured in a lengthy piece at Salon.com examining the basic premise of such legislation, which also has been introduced in Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas; in it, he says, “There is a strong link between alcohol consumption and sexual violence,” but that strip clubs “are no better and no worse” than other business peddling booze.

Williams flack Joyce told us there are “dueling experts” on both sides of the question, but that Williams is focused more on the connection between “the objectification of women” and sexual violence. In any case, he added, the bill was killed in committee last week.

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