Some Encinitas residents are accusing mayoral candidate Paul Gaspar of misleading voters by using the "Dr." title without attaching the appropriate suffix in campaign brochures and on his website.
Also on his website are pictures of Gaspar posing in a lab coat as well as one of him holding a stethoscope near a patient's chest. Gaspar holds a doctorate in physical therapy but is not considered a medical doctor.
"In his mayoral campaign, [Gaspar] uses the singular term 'Dr.' in all of his literature and every time he addresses an audience," says Encinitas resident Dennis Lees. "He even poses in [medical] doctor’s attire in some of his photos rather than customary DPT attire."
Gaspar's wife Kristin served as city councilmember and mayor of Encinitas and is currently running for county supervisor against incumbent Dave Roberts.
Paul Gaspar has been active in his wife's political career. In 2012 he was criticized for his involvement in issuing a series of political mailers under the "We Love Encinitas" moniker. The mailers claimed the group was a registered nonprofit; however, as reported by the Coast News Group in 2012, no such nonprofit was ever registered with the state.
In July 2016, Paul Gaspar filed paperwork announcing his run for mayor of Encinitas against councilmember Catherine Blakespear. Now, residents are beginning to take issue with Gaspar's use of "Dr."
"Gaspar obtained a doctorate in physical therapy so he is justified in using the title 'Dr.' as long as he appends 'DPT' to clarify that he is a doctor of physical therapy, not a physician or surgeon. To do otherwise not only exaggerates and inflates his qualifications, but also violates Codes 2054(a) and 2633 (b)2 in the California Business and Professions Code. These state that it's a misdemeanor to just refer to himself as a 'Dr.' without adding the required suffix," says Lees.
Gaspar did not respond to a request for comment.
In regard to election law, says Richard Hasen, a professor of law at the University of California at Irvine, little can be done to prevent such claims.
"There are often fights about the work designations people put in their official ballot designations. But the First Amendment makes it hard to do anything about misleading or false campaign advertising unless it defames someone," Hasen says.
"When the Supreme Court dealt with a question somewhat related to this a few years ago, it said the best remedy is 'counterspeech' — that is, someone responding by saying the advertising is false or misleading."