Elizabeth Warren. The main differences between herself and Encinitas city councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath: “She has money and I don’t.”
The top two primary candidates who advanced to the November election to replace Republican Rocky Chavez as assemblyman from the 76th District, were both Democratic women. That area of North County — Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Encinitas — has been sending Republican men to Sacramento for decades. One would think this upcoming November election for Chavez’s seat would be the last place to see a last-minute dirty trick.
But that is exactly how Elizabeth Warren, who finished first in the June primary, describes her big weekend surprise. On Saturday, August 25, Warren was served with notification that the California Secretary of State was being sued, demanding that Warren’s approved ballot designation of “Journalist/Community Advocate” be taken off the November ballot. Warren was served with a copy of the suit at her Oceanside home, advising her that she or her attorney could speak on her behalf at the hearing three days later, at 10:30 am, Tuesday, August 28 in Sacramento.
The drop-dead day for any changes to the November ballot is Thursday, August 30. Warren says she was granted the ballot designation by the secretary of state, and she has no idea why this suit that could have been filed months earlier was filed so late. She also says the person who actually filed the lawsuit, Andrea Murray, is a complete unknown in local political circles. She says Murray’s only known information is “resident of San Diego County.”
“These things are done all the time,” says veteran political consultant Chris Crotty. “The people with the money shop around and find people they can use for things like this.”
Crotty says whoever is actually behind the suit had to pay the hourly fee of between $500 and $750 per hour to the legal firm of Kaufman Legal Group, APC which has offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. He says that legal firm specializes in election law.
Attempts to reach responsible attorney Gary Winuk who is handling the case for Kaufman (including phone calls and an email) were not successful. It was unknown how to contact Andrea Murray.
The lawsuit says that Warren should not be called a “Community Advocate” because “…she has received no income from being a ‘Community Advocate.’”
While she admits she was never paid, Warren points to her years of involvement in such progressive causes as MoveOn and the Progressive Democrats of America. She says her work for Bernie Sanders and for his progressive values got her a spot on the California delegation to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Crotty thinks that “Community Advocate” challenge is particularly baffling because many unpaid activities such as as “…‘housewife’ or ‘homemaker’ are used all the time. “The list of variations is practically endless.”
“I’ve been a journalist since I was 12,” says Warren who says she has worked for most of her adult life for newspapers, magazines and websites. But she says just because she was not employed as a journalist at the time of the election should not matter. “This is what I do. People take time off to run for office all the time. Plus, I’m a freelance journalist which be definition means I get hired infrequently. There is no regular publication schedule especially when you blog but it doesn’t make the work any less real.”
“This lawsuit appeared out of nowhere and is highly suspicious,” says Crotty who says he gave Warren some election advice prior to the June primary at no charge.
Warren says one of the main differences between herself and her opponent, Encinitas City Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath: “She has money and I don’t.”
Of the lawsuit Warren says: “The whole point of this was to take me away from the campaign for a weekend and get me to spend money on attorneys and/or go to Sacramento myself.”
Warren wonders if it might be the Democratic machine that orchestrated the suit due to her more progressive stance. “As a grass roots progressive I don’t necessarily tow the party line on every issue. Tasha got the endorsement of every labor union, and many elected Democrats.” She says Assemblymembers Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez both back Horvath.
“Lorena has done everything possible since day one to raise money for Tasha,” says Warren. “Lorena walked Tasha in the back door to get the pre-endorsement from the Central Labor Council. Minutes after Tasha declared she was a candidate, Tasha got the endorsement of the California Democratic Legislative Women’s Caucus. In both cases I was not even given a chance to speak to them.”
But just who orchestrated this last minute tactic? A call to opponent Horvath led to this response: “Any questions on that need to be answered by my consultant Derek Humphrey,” she responded. Humphrey’s Overland Strategies, based in San Dimas, has a history of helping candidates running for congress and state office.
Humphrey did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
“I find it interesting and ironic that they chose the word ‘disingenuous’ to describe my ballot designation,” says Warren. “She has not operated a business since 2016 but I would never challenge her designation, because to do so is petty.”
“The use of ‘businessman’ is ubiquitous,” says Crotty. “More than 25 per cent of the candidates use it, even if they are not legitimate business people.” Crotty says he finds it unusual that Warren’s similar ballot designation was not challenged in the last election.
Tony Kranz, who has served alongside Horvath for two years, thinks the lawsuit is pointless. “People seldom vote based on what is says on the ballot under your name anyway. This is goofy since the payoff of getting [Warren] to change it is minimal. But the damage could be significant when it is discovered who did it. And it will come out eventually.”