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Senate Bars Personal Attacks in Nonpartisan Ballot Pamphlets

July 16, 1987|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — By a 21-1 vote, the state Senate has passed legislation to prevent candidates for nonpartisan local offices from assailing each other in official ballot pamphlets.

The measure was prompted by a broadside in a ballot pamphlet sent to voters in the 1986 El Monte mayoral campaign.

If signed by the governor, the legislation, carried by Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-El Monte), would prohibit any reference to a candidate's opponent. It was introduced at the request of El Monte city officials and was supported by the League of California Cities. The bill was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which contends it curbs freedom of speech in elections.

In support of the proposal, El Monte City Atty. David F. Gondek declared: "The sentiment on the City Council is that candidates should focus on their own qualifications rather than their opponents.' "

Gondek said the council was angered in the April, 1986, election campaign when challenger Jim Marin claimed in the voter's pamphlet that Mayor Donald McMillen supported spending $6 million to remodel City Hall and allowed his wife to travel to Mexico at city expense.

McMillen denied the allegations, saying only $2.7 million was approved for the renovation and that he paid his wife's expenses on all but one trip, which was to Rancho Bernardo for a conference of the Assn. of Independent Cities.

McMillen easily won reelection with 57.1% of the vote to Marin's 42.9%. Even so, in an interview last week, McMillen asserted that the criticism of him in the official voter pamphlet created the impression that the city supported the allegations.

"No matter how hard you run you can't overcome that with people who don't know you that well," McMillen said.

Daphne L. Macklin, a lobbyist for the ACLU, said the bill may bar a candidate from comparing himself to an opponent and questioned whether that would be "an appropriate restriction on information . . . that may be relevant in determining someone's qualifications for office."

On the Senate floor, the only vote Monday against the measure was cast by Sen. William Lockyer (D-Hayward). Lockyer said he was siding with the ACLU, asserting that Tanner's measure is "a limitation on freedom of speech."

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