LONG BEACH — City Council candidate Ron Batson has accused District 1 opponent Evan Anderson Braude of forgery and fraud in mailing to downtown-area voters postcards containing endorsements that were never made.
Batson, who faces Braude in the June 3 runoff election, said that during the last week he has obtained signed statements from three downtown residents who say Braude did not get their permission to use their names and purported signatures on a mailer to solicit votes from their neighbors.
"It's a forgery and a fraud," said Batson, an attorney. "It's a forgery because he signed their names without permission and a fraud because it's a misrepresentation."
Braude, who is also a lawyer, acknowledged that three residents' names on postcards he mailed April 5 probably were used mistakenly. All three expressed support for him early in the race, he said, but apparently there was a misunderstanding later on when a campaign worker requested an endorsement.
"We think that it's just literally a clerical error," said Braude. Or the three, to whom Braude has apologized, might have forgotten that they gave permission, he said.
"From now on we'll only do this if we have something in writing from our endorsers," Braude said.
Braude added that it does not make sense for Batson to allege that the Braude campaign purposely used improper endorsements before the primary. With a 14-candidate field, he said, a runoff election was a virtual certainty. "We would not have done this knowingly," since the resulting bad publicity could only hurt in a runoff, Braude said.
The postcards say that "I've met Evan personally and he impressed me as someone who really understands the problems we face right here in our neighborhood." They then urge the neighbor to "join me in helping to elect" Braude.
Of the 350 people whose names were used on about 7,000 postcards to solicit neighbors' votes, only the three cited by Batson have claimed not to have given their permission, Braude said.
But Batson said he thinks there may be more that are "out and out frauds."
"I think Mr. Braude and his committee are under tremendous pressure because of his political affiliation with his father, and he let the pressure get in the way of his better judgment," Batson said.
Braude, the stepson of Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D-Harbor City), received 1,118 votes in the District 1 primary to the front-running Batson's 1,129 votes.
Batson said he has not yet decided whether to file a complaint with the Los Angeles County district attorney or state agencies that regulate election practices.
Candace Beason, a deputy district attorney who prosecutes political corruption and election cases, said only one general section of the state Election Code would seem to apply at all to the District 1 situation.
That section states that "any person who attempts fraud . . . in connection with any vote cast or to be cast . . . is guilty of a felony." But Beason said she would have to know more about the Long Beach case to say if the section is relevant.
Spokesmen for both the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office said much the same thing as Beason.
Regardless of law, Wayne Stidham, a Cedar Avenue resident who said he voted for Batson, said his name was used by Braude without permission, and he was irritated.
"I think it was kind of hitting below the belt," Stidham said. "I think you've got to have some ethics, even in politics."
Stidham said at least 10 of the 14 candidates in District 1 called on him, soliciting support. "I thought Braude sounded pretty nice, they all sounded pretty nice," he said. "But I didn't tell any of them I'd give them support."
Mildred Alderman, a Cedar Avenue neighbor of Stidham, and Patricia Ray, a resident of the Sovereign Apartments on Ocean Boulevard, also said that they had never given Braude their endorsements.
Alderman's husband, Roy, said he and his wife would not have known about the postcards except that a neighbor confronted his wife and said, " 'I'll vote for who I please, thank you.' "
"(The neighbor) thought Mildred was trying to affect her vote," said Roy Alderman. "We were just going to forget about it. We didn't want to get anyone in trouble."