Assembly Race Ads Get Ugly: Moldy Food, Chatty Cathy Figures

California Association of Realtors Trashes Mayor Murillo, Supervisor Bennett

Two of the seven 37th District Assembly candidates, Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo (left) and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett (right), were targeted by critical campaign ads this week, paid for by the California Association of Realtors. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss and Paul Wellman

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Rotting, molding food and photoshopped pull-string “Chatty Cathy” doll depictions were used in campaign mailers this week, lambasting 37th State Assembly candidates Ventura Supervisor Steve Bennett and Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo.

The mailers, paid for by the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee — California Association of Realtors, appeared to be the harshest and most negative mailers so far in the seven-candidate race. They depicted molding bread and fruit as Bennett, with messages such as “Not Everything Gets Better with Time” and “Got Ethics? Nope.” 

“I’m the only candidate endorsed by the Sierra Club, and I’ve been fighting against oil and realestate development interests for a long time, so I’m used to being smeared,” Bennett said in response. “This time is different, because in just two days, the California real estate independent PAC spent just under $125,000 in attack mailers against me, and they are likely going to continue spending a fortune through election day. They have over $4 million in their war chest.”

The ads call Bennett a “termed-out politician” who, at 27 years in office, needs to step down. Bennett has a record of standing up to special interests, including writing the strictest campaign finance law in the state which limits campaign contributions to $750 for Ventura County elections. He said the attack is because the real estate PAC knows that “I’ll stand up to the special interests, and I won’t allow them to build whatever they want, wherever they want.”

The anti-Murillo ads photoshop her head onto 1960s Chatty Cathy dolls with a pull-string, with messages like “Who’s Pulling Her Strings?” “I Like to Make Promises!” and “She Talks a Good Game.”

“Once again, a candidate is being stereotyped and attacked based on gender,” Murillo said in response to the ads. “Voters know I’ve fought to protect our environment and create greater opportunities for our youth, so I’m not too worried about the impact from the mailer.

“It seems that because of my record of leadership on behalf of working families, Sacramento special interests are attacking me and trying to buy this race,” Murillo said.

The ads blame Murillo for Santa Barbara’s increase in gang crime and unsheltered homeless population. The Independent reached out to the California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee — California Association of Realtors for a comment about the mailer ads. Although they initially responded, no one from the organization was able to give a comment by press time. 

Jason Dominguez — the ex-Santa Barbara City Council member known for his frequent feuds with Murillo on the dais — is also running for the 37th Assembly seat and is endorsed by the California Association of Realtors. Dominguez’s two largest Democratic competitors in the race are Bennett and Murillo, who have raised the highest amount of dollars in their campaigns. 

“Our campaign is focused on talking to as many voters as possible before March 3rd,” Dominguez said when asked about the mailers. “Voters know my record and know me as the pragmatic, common-sense candidate in this race. We aren’t going to comment on the activities of any independent groups.”

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