Elect or Re-Elect? Words Matter.

A couple of years ago, Barbra Williamson was quoted in the paper as saying the following after she filed a complaint about Keith Mashburn regarding his ballot designation of “retired fire chief.”

“You’ve got to play on a level playing field,” she said. “Everybody has to play by the rules. I know there are people upset with me—so be it. I’ve never been one to shy away from a problem.”

Right now, Barbra Williamson is asking people to “re-elect” her as a member of the Simi Valley City Council. She’s doing so with the “Re-elect Barbra Williamson” materials that she passes out at events like the Simi Valley Street Fair, on her campaign website and while walking precincts to talk to voters. The problem with that is that she is not a sitting councilmember. Per California law, only an incumbent can use the word “re-elect” to describe their actual re-election effort. Doing so otherwise is a violation of California Elections Code section 18350.

“I have no ill will toward Keith Mashburn; I’ve known him for years and years and years,” she said. “I think he’s a good person. I think when he put down ‘retired fire chief’ that he knew it was slippery slope and that he even had reservations about it.” – Barbra Williamson, 2012

Likewise, I’m sure Barbra knew it was a slippery slope to use the word “re-elect” and fully appreciates this coming to light so she can address it appropriately. Right? Right. Of course, failure to comply and update the campaign and associated materials is more than just a violation of California Election Code, but it also serves to mislead voters. This campaign will be a critical one for Barbra because it’s her attempt to earn back her seat on the City Council after her two year hiatus. But as the 2012 robocall indicates, misleading voters is ineffective. To assist in this process, I have informed the Ventura County DA, the Simi Valley City Manager’s office, and the Secretary of State Elections Office, among others, all of whom can provide oversight to ensure that voters have a fair chance of knowing who the candidates really are.

In the 2012 election for City Council, Barbra Williamson was defeated by Keith Mashburn, who received 16,800+ votes to her 14,800+ votes, with Steve Sojka taking the top number of votes and being re-elected. Back in 2008, Steve Sojka was easily re-elected as the top vote-getter, with Barbra being re-elected with 22,900+ votes to challenger Mike Judge’s 13,500+ showing at the polls. If history tells us anything, it’s that Barbra has no hope of defeating Glen Becerra’s anticipated numbers this election and that she’s hoping to oust Mike Judge, repeating her success in 2008. His showing as a new candidate in 2008 was impressive, but this time he’s returning with a lot of new support and as an incumbent, which, despite arguments to the contrary, matters to the Simi Valley electorate. She will need to campaign hard this time around, and with more than just a “re-elect” word-play trick up her sleeve. This city is full of surprises, so we’ll see what happens in November. More to come later on the Barbra Williamson campaign…

DISCLOSURE: I was once a very enthusiastic supporter of Barbra Williamson but did not support her re-election in 2012.

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