On Monday morning, Rick Taylor, the Los Angeles-based operative managing Byrl Smith’s campaign in the 4th District County Supervisor’s race, called to say he understood Smith – whom the Weekly categorically did not endorse – would be offered a chance to rebut our non-endorsement.

Not really, and not sure who told you that, I said, but what the hell. Send a letter.

You called her dumb, he said.

No, we absolutely didn’t, I said. Dumb would imply a state from which she could not recover. 

In our endorsement, which went to incumbent Jane Parker, the Weekly called Smith intellectually unprepared for the rigors of office, a state from which (should Smith sit down and do her homework), she could most certainly evolve. 

In our endorsement for Parker, we also called Smith very nice. On behalf of the paper, I’m taking the nice part back. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it would appear the Smith campaign is getting dangerously desperate. And since that initial conversation with Taylor on Monday, Smith has proven herself to be as cunning as a fox, a willing and eager recipient of political advice so smelly that it might just be what’s turned the air in south Seaside foul this week. 

As orchestrated by Taylor, her moves over the past few days show Smith is counting on voters to be the dumb ones.

Sometime over the past few days, Smith’s campaign sent out a mailer that makes it appear as if the Monterey County Herald endorsed her. (Like the Weekly, they endorsed Parker) Taylor yanked a headline from a Herald news story about the District 4 race, pulled a few lines from the same story and pasted it on a glossy, patriotic-themed mailer. On one side of the mailer are silhouettes of five U.S. service members set on a stars-and-stripes background with the words “Honoring Our Veterans.”

On the other side is a picture of Byrl and her late husband, Supervisor Jerry Smith, standing in front of an American flag. Next to the pic is the Herald’s logo and the headline that reads, “Clear Choice in Monterey County’s 4th District.” The narrative trumpets her support of the Eastside Parkway project, described as the lone route to the proposed Veterans’ Cemetery, and a project that Parker questions. 

What a deeply cynical move, and just in time for Memorial Day, too. 

The mailer is very clearly meant to look as if the Herald endorsed Smith. And when questioned about the complete lack of ethics and disregard for the truth that went into developing such a piece, Taylor’s response is condescending and dismissive. Question him, as Herald editor Royal Calkins did Monday and as I did on Tuesday, and it surely means you are biased against his candidate.

Or worse than that, it also means we’re “unprofessional.”

“This is ridiculous,” Taylor says. “I took a quote from a newspaper and I used it in a piece of mail in a way that I’ve done in 38 years in politics. This isn’t a special thing in Monterey. We took words out of a newspaper, used the masthead and reprinted it. This is done in every single political campaign. It doesn’t mislead and deceive.”

The conversation deteriorated from there. 

Even die-hard Republicans are questioning the ethics. In an email, Seaside resident Larry Hawkins writes that the Smith campaign “has slipped into panic mode with an almost-daily spate of anti-Jane Parker hit pieces. Makes Chicago-style politics seem clean by comparison.”

Calkins, meanwhile, says the incident makes him worry that campaign managers have decided that duplicity – even as clumsy as this – works.

“It also worries me that if a campaign is willing to try a stunt like this now, more than a week before the election and when there is still time for the record to be corrected, what are they going to try in the final days of the campaign?” he says.

Smith has a lot of financial backing from a lot of powerful people – auto dealers appear to love her, with Sam Linder donating $5,000 to her campaign. The Salinas Valley Leadership Group, which (haha) says it supports candidates who are people of integrity, who are informed and understand the issues, donated $20,000; and the Monterey County Business PAC gave $16,000. 

So I ask them all this: Did you want your hard-earned dollars to go toward funding this astounding lapse of judgment?

As for what Taylor can pull off before the election, Mr. Calkins should anticipate it involves a polling question about Jane Parker, a reference to Smith’s health and an asinine attempt to smear Parker that’s going to make Smith’s campaign crew look worse than it already does. 

Mary Duan is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at mary@mcweekly.com.

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