Assembly Republican leaders have poured $123,000 into the campaign to unseat Democratic Assemblywoman Sally Tanner of El Monte, enabling Republican challenger Henry J. Velasco to flood the district with mailers that Tanner says distort her record, but which he says contain charges that have been solidly researched.
Tanner said the barrage is "a bundle of lies and distortions," and has left her "physically ill."
"Their campaign is clever, but it's ugly," Tanner said. "They don't speak to the issues."
But Velasco, a former El Monte councilman, said the mailers are well-researched and Tanner's discomfort stems from the fact that she is in a tough political fight and in danger of losing in Tuesday's election.
Doug Haaland, who is managing Velasco's campaign against Tanner, said the Assembly Republican caucus has put $123,000 worth of money and campaign services into the effort, raising total expenditures to $140,000. Much of the money has gone into mailers that have attacked Tanner for supporting reconfirmation of California Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, and which charge that she has taken campaign funds from companies that produce toxic waste while she is drafting laws on such wastes, and voted against the death penalty and for reduced penalties for drug use.
Haaland said all of the charges in the mailers have been carefully documented and are based on voting records and other information.
But Tanner said the mailers "are lying" about her record. For example, she said, one mailer said she supports legalized offshore gambling. The Velasco campaign based the charge on Tanner's vote in 1985 for a bill that would have repealed penal code provisions that make it unlawful to solicit persons to visit gambling ships.
Tanner's staff said the bill would not have legalized offshore gambling, which already occurs on cruise ships and is beyond the power of the state to regulate. In an interview, Tanner said she could not recall the purpose of the bill, but she does not advocate legalized gambling, and, in fact, opposed establishment of the state lottery.
Tanner also accused the Velasco campaign of using a "phony committee" to claim support from law enforcement. Tanner has the endorsement of the Police Officers Research Assn. of California, which claims 30,000 members, other major law enforcement organizations and the police chiefs of El Monte and West Covina.
Velasco's mailer claims that he was endorsed by law enforcement, but the organization cited was the Professional Police and Sheriffs of California, a political organization that was formed Oct. 6 with only 19 members statewide.
A Campaign Ploy
Tanner replied to Velasco's mailer with a mailer of her own calling the Professional Police and Sheriffs of California a "phony organization" and quoting other law enforcement leaders as saying that it had been established as a "campaign ploy to confuse voters."
Haaland said that the organization, although new, is a legitimate one and that the mailer containing its endorsement was important not for the size of the organization's membership, but for the issues that were raised, including Tanner's support of Bird and her record on crime issues.
In addition to general mailings to the district, Velasco's campaign has included targeted mail, sending messages designed to appeal to specific groups of voters. A Velasco letter to Chamber of Commerce members, for example, criticized Tanner's record on issues of interest to small businesses and cited her votes contrary to the position of the state Chamber of Commerce.
In a letter to Latino voters, Velasco noted that he is Latino and said, "Because Hispanics make up the population majority in our 60th Assembly District, I think it is important for us to have a Hispanic representative--someone who really understands what our concerns are."
Edge in Registration
An estimated 54% of the residents of the 60th Assembly District are Latino, according to the 1980 census. Nearly 60% of the voters are registered Democrats and less than 32% are Republican, with the remainder either independent or belonging to minor parties.
Tanner has represented the 60th Assembly District for eight years. The district includes Baldwin Park, El Monte, La Puente, Rosemead, City of Industry and part of West Covina.
Velasco said the amount of support his campaign is receiving from the Republican Party shows that leaders share his conviction that Tanner can be beaten despite her party's registration edge.
Tanner said she had planned to spend about $50,000 on her campaign, but is revising the budget upward to meet the Republican attack.
Source of Funds Criticized
Velasco has sharply criticized Tanner's acceptance of campaign funds from chemical companies, toxic waste haulers "and other polluters" while sitting as chairwoman of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. The campaign contributions have amounted to more than $30,000 over several years.