(This story has now been covered by The Hill. We have also posted a comment from the Pleitez campaign. Welcome to all the new readers! - promoted by Brian Leubitz)
(full disclosure: I serve as the the Political Director of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats, which overwhelmingly endorsed Gil Cedillo for the CA-32 Congressional seat. In what follows, as well as anything else I write or have ever written about this race or any other issue, the opinions written here are strictly my own personal views, and do not reflect the official views of any organization I am involved with in any official capacity.)
The CA-32 race is getting personal. Gil Cedillo's campaign has already gotten some criticism for the use of unrelated headlines in a mailer against Judy Chu, and now Cedillo has gone negative against the other candidate in the race with a shot at viability: Emanuel Pleitez, the 26-year-old former employee of the Obama-Biden Treasury Department transition team.
Now before I continue with the mailer itself, which is the heart of this story, I should first point out the initial implications that I perceive about Cedillo's campaign going negative on Pleitez: by my view, it's not a good sign for the campaign. If the campaign is spending money, energy and political capital in attacking someone who was supposed to be a minor candidate and who has raised about a quarter of the money that Cedillo's campaign has, it would indicate that Cedillo's team is afraid that Pleitez is drawing a larger share than expected of the demographic that Cedillo would need to beat Judy Chu, and I don't view it as a positive sign for Cedillo's campaign that it's having to use negative mailers to shore up its other flank.
But let's get to the mailer itself, which you can see front and back at these links:
Edit by Brian for space...see the flip.
The basic point the campaign is trying to make, of course, is that Emanuel is too wild and immature to run for Congress. And Cedillo has a strong case to make based on his maturity and his extensive experience as a legislator. And yes, there are a few wild photos from the bunch that the campaign selected. But I'll bet a lot of those are innocuous photos that were taken out of context. For instance, a lot of the pictures on there are shots of Pleitez with various women, often not even in a party setting--obviously designed to convey the impression that Pleitez is a womanizer.
Well, here's the problem. I'm one of the least rowdy 26-year-olds I know. And yet, if someone wanted to troll through the photos of me on Facebook to portray me as an immature womanizer party animal, it would certainly be possible. I've been in a committed relationship for a 2 1/2 years now. But still, there's a picture there of me with one of my blogger friends, who happens to be a female my age. There's also one of me with a friend whom I've known since my freshman year of college when we were in UCLA's Regents Scholar Society--also an attractive woman my age. And yet, if you wanted to take those and other pictures out of context and claim that you're "missing a lot of women" if you haven't seen my Facebook page...well, I guess nothing prevents you--outside of a sense of honesty or decency, both of which seem to be missing in this case. I imagine that a lot of this site's readers are my friends on Facebook. Why not have a blast and put together an attack mailer against me?
The text of the mailer is also relatively amusing--"even nerdy guys want to look cool"? The hilarity of that is only exceeded by the Spanish translation of "nerdy": socialmente ineptos.
I don't know what Gil Cedillo was doing for entertainment when he was in his mid-twenties. But what I do know is that whatever it was, it wasn't documented through the use of digital cameras and social networking. At the risk of sounding like Thomas Friedman, I was just talking with one of my students a couple of days ago about what impact social media would have on future elections from the "scandal" perspective--i.e., what if there were photos of any presidential candidate's youthful indiscretions on Facebook? It's one thing to hear tell of it--it's quite another to see the actual physical evidence. And I suppose that question has been answered just a few days later. And if you're a young person contemplating a run for office, it should send just a little bit of a shiver down your spine. Your elder opponents' actions at your age--even if they're just five or ten years older--aren't a matter of public record. But in the age of Facebook and Myspace, yours are--and no matter how innocent you may think your photos are, you need to think about the worst possible way they could be used against you--because that's probably what's going to happen.
Bottom line: the fact that Gil Cedillo's campaign feels the need to use social media to commit character assassination on a lesser-known opponent is disheartening. Gil Cedillo is a strong progressive legislator with a long career track record. His campaign team consists of people I know who are dedicated to progressive causes. And the negative mailers sent on the campaign's behalf are, in my view, not worthy of Senator Cedillo or his campaign leaders. This is really a low blow, and smacks of desperation to have to resort to this.