Race Card Played in 65th AD Campaign
In a campaign largely coordinated and funded by San Bernardino County Supervisor and Republican Party Chairman Bill Postmus, the race of one of the opponents of his chosen candidate, Paul Cook, was made a major closing issue in the race.
In one mail piece directly funded by the Cook campaign, Cook attacks second-place finisher Brenda Salas for naming a street in her hometown of Banning after local businessman Maurice Calderon "to honor the winner the Consuledo de Mexico Premio Ohtli Award." Cook calls it an award "for service to the people from Mexico."
In reality, the award was to recognize service to his local community, the Inland Empire, and highlight ways Mexico and the U.S. can work together. The award ceremony was attended by dozens of local elected officials as well as business and community leaders including the CSU San Bernardino Air Force ROTC.
In fact, Calderon is from one of the most highly respected families in the region and the street was named after his family by the developer in recognition of the generations of service they have provided to the community.
As a local mayor, Cook knows better than to think a Councilmember would have the authority to name a street. He was simply trying to make the point that it was a Mexican that was being honored hoping that would hightlight Salas' Mexican heritage and turn off some voters in the current racially-charged atmosphere.
Calderon was the Arrowhead Credit Union Senior Vice President at the time. Ironically, the Arrowhead Credit Union donated $1000 to Cook's campaign.
Cook, who highlighted his leadership abilities as a retired Marine colonel, has been pleading ignorance, telling people that he had no idea Calderon was attacked in the mail piece presumably approved by him and sent out by his campaign.
In an even more insidious, and possibly more effective attack, in a mail piece billed as a "GOP Voter Guide," the photos of all the candidates are used. The photo of Salas is obviously darkened to stress her Hispanic ancestry.
There was a third such attack in the race although it is still unclear if it was the Cook campaign or the Ayres campaign that was responsible for it. A man with an exaggerated Mexican accent called voters saying he was from a Democratic Party organization claiming they were endorsing Salas "informing" them she supported illegal immigration. People who heard the message commented that the person making the call lost his accent as the call went on. Salas, of course, was the candidate supported by the Minuteman Project and, according to her campaign literature, is a founding member of the Inland Empire Minuteman Project.
Although this third incident fits comfortably into the Cook/Postmus campaign's pattern of racially-based attacks, one of Ayres' consultants was noted taking credit for the anonymous phone call.
The Democrats have been largely successful in deflecting on Republicans their own historically racist role in politics. But it seems too many Republicans are willing to embrace the part the Democrats have accused us of playing.
Screaming racism is, of course, a common Democratic tactic. Yet as Republicans know, most affirmative action programs are racist themselves, designed to keep minorities in poverty and thereby relying on the government (in the form of Democratic politicians) for their survival.
But the sad fact in this case is that many Republicans can't recognize a racially motivated attack when it is true. The chances are there will not be a legislative candidate like Salas - a conservative, Hispanic, female, elected official - for at least another decade. If Republicans were really serious about becoming a majority in California, she is exactly the type of candidate we need to attract.
No one has yet said Paul Cook or Bill Postmus are racists. But they certainly proved skilled at playing the race card and running a racially inflammatory campaign.