By Jim Coffis
Who is Stephen Reed and why is Bruce McPherson allowing him to take his campaign into the gutter? The answer to the first part is easy, Reed is the paid campaign manager for Mr McPherson. The second part is less clear. Is he simply a loose cannon or is he following orders?
I'm also curious what Mr Reed's position might be if McPherson is elected to the Board of Supervisors. Will he become the chief of staff who locals will need to deal with if they want to get their representatives attention?
In spite of being the overwhelming favorite from the day he announced his candidacy and in spite of raising and spending more money than has ever been spent on a Board of Supervisor seat, the former Republican legislator failed to secure a victory in June and now faces the possibility of losing his third election in a row.
Mr Reed must be feeling some heat. It was reported in June that he anticipated some sort of last minute attack from the Hammer forces prior to the primary and decided to keep a healthy sum in reserve. That decision may have cost McPherson an outright win along with Zach Friend and John Leopold.
Rumors and Innuendo
The attack never came, instead, on the weekend before the primary election Reed, a former UCSC and CSUMB spokesperson, orchestrated a smear campaign against Eric Hammer by encouraging a former opposition candidate to suggest in a letter to the local weekly that Hammer had “bullied” Annette Marcum, the elderly founder of the Valley Churches United charity, in a phone call. Marcum and Hammer have both denied that their conversation was anything but cordial and Marcum has said she does not think Eric is responsible for “an obscene call” she got from someone she says was a Hammer supporter - although that perpetrator has never been identified. This incident has now been repeated so often that Hammer is being regularly characterized in multiple letters to the editor as being a “bully”.
Another rumor that Reed apparently is fueling is that Hammer supporters have organized boycotts against several local businesses. Someone very close to the McPherson campaign repeated this to me and although she mentioned no names or businesses affected, she was convinced it was true. I could find no evidence of any boycotts or threats to local businesses in numerous conversations I’ve had with a number of SLV business owners.
Attack on the Valley Women’s Club
For over twenty years the Valley Women’s Club, in cooperation with the League of Women Voters has held open community candidate forums. During the primary the VWC-LOWV forum was one of eight that Hammer and McPherson attended and one of three that was focused only on the fifth district candidates. For the general election only the Valley Women’s Club has hosted a similar forum locally. The VWC extended invitations to both candidates and both accepted. The McPherson campaign sent an email to supporters over Reed’s signature that said: “During the Primary campaign, the VWC hosted what appeared to be a biased and unfair candidate debate.” The letter, which was also posted on the campaign’s Facebook page went on to accuse the organization of endorsing Hammer which would be in violation of their charter and would jeopardize their tax-exempt status.
After being confronted by a supporter at the VWC forum, McPherson seemed surprised about the letter and it has subsequently been removed from their Facebook page. You can see the letter here.
(For the record, I am a member of the board of the Valley Women’s Club and they have not, nor have they ever, endorsed a candidate for any office. I personally voted for Eric Hammer for reasons I wrote about here.)
Attack on Hammer Fundraising
Last week the first financial disclosure statements candidates have filed since the primary election were released. With a month to go, McPherson is well on his way to raising over $200,000 and further eclipsing all records for amount of money in a Santa Cruz County election. Rather than gloat or defend the need to raise so much money, Mr Reed chose to launch a pre-emptive attack on Hammer’s fundraising, saying “ as... in the primary election, Hammer has more ‘special interest’ money raised than does Bruce” and “The Hammer household continues to self-fund the Eric Hammer campaign, and has pledged to continue to do so.” In a letter posted on their Facebook page he goes on to quote “political experts” who have told him to brace for “hit pieces” : "Eric doesn't have to raise all the campaign money he needs, he just has to wait for the unions and other special interests in Sacramento to send troops, and pay for direct-mail hit pieces".
Reed says supporters have been urging Bruce to be ready “if Eric starts throwing mud” and he quotes his boss as saying “We will be.”
Read the whole letter here, it’s a classic. You can peruse both candidates financial disclosure statements here.
Calls Constituent a Liar
Also this week Reed pulled an old GOP trick to associate his guy with popular Democratic candidates by circulating “Local Voters Guide” door hangers, listing Bill Monning for Senate, Mark Stone for Assembly and Bruce McPherson for Supervisor.
Monning has endorsed Hammer. Stone has remained mum so far but it’s no secret that McPherson and his new supporter Fred Keeley are not big fans of the current 5th District Supervisor but they’re both savvy enough to know Stone has wide support in the district.
Apparently Reed is just warming up. On Wednesday he sent a letter to the Sentinel and posted it on the campaign website essentially calling long time Felton resident and business woman, Barbara Sprenger a liar. “Ms. Springer (sic) repeats the oft-rebutted claim that McPherson wouldn't meet with FLOW.” Not so says Reed. “It’s just a lie.”
Reed’s letter was posted on the McPherson website under the SC Sentinel banner as if it had been published. In it he says “I am Bruce McPherson's campaign chairman so I believe it is fair to respond, and with this full disclosure, fair for the Sentinel print. I will be very surprised if the Sentinel does print the letter and not very surprised if it disappears from the website.
You can read the full text of Ms Sprenger’s letter here and Reed’s response here.
When I started the SLV News Network my goal was to provide a platform that would facilitate communication among all those who live, work, or play in the San Lorenzo Valley. I did not want to be addressing this kind of nonsense. My hope is that by shining a little light on Mr Reed and his approach to local politics, Mr McPherson might reign him in and we might be able to salvage the remainder of the campaign to focus more on what each candidate hopes to accomplish as our representative.
I will be happy to publish anything that either candidate cares to share about how they intend to serve the people of this community.