Gloves come off in Pacific mayoral race | Klaas
By MARK KLAAS
Auburn Reporter Regional Editor
October 26, 2011 · Updated 4:13 PM
The Pacific mayoral race has turned nasty. Not all sides are playing nice.
The small, blue-collar town typically rears its ugly side during the political season. This fall's mayoral mess is no different.
"Pacific is no Pleasantville," said one resident, tending to her yard on a sun-splashed Tuesday. "Just look down 3rd Avenue."
Campaign signs congest street corners, occupy businesses and clutter front yards, reflecting three forces hard at work. Their messages are magnified in bold letters and amplified by gossip circulated throughout the small community of 6,000 residents.
There are signs supporting Richard Hildreth for a third term, an effort endorsed by the firefighters union. Signs support challenger John C. Jones, the City Council president, who has run a relatively clean campaign seeking change and new leadership.
Then there are signs that appear to be the makings of a smear campaign against Hildreth.
And the hostile rhetoric is upsetting residents and turning off voters.
"They are just attacking all the time. Enough is enough," said Vicky Nelson, a 12-year resident. "I'm just tired of the dirty politics. They don't stand on a platform, say what they can do better. They just want to jab, annihilate and attack.
"It's got to stop. They've got to grow up. Who would want somebody that has that kind of mentality in control of our little city?"
The Nov. 8 general election cannot come soon enough.
This race is replete with characters.
Cy Sun, a write-in mayoral candidate, claims corruption in City Hall under Hildreth's watch. His signs, circulated fliers and other paper propaganda say so.
Robocalls have jingled home phones.
Meanwhile, a website – anybodybutrich.com – has been "dedicated to the residents of Pacific." Its producer, a disgruntled local businessman, wants a new man in office, claiming Hildreth has abused his privileges by using a City credit card for personal use and to advance a career in emergency management.
"Check it out. (The website) speaks for itself," said Jerry Eck, owner of Valley Recycling, a Hildreth antagonist who is supporting the ouster of the mayor. "I wouldn't call it a campaign. ... We think he should be compelled to repay that money to the general fund."
A recent investigation cleared Hildreth of charges in credit-card-gate.
"They declined to prosecute," Eck insisted.
Eck said he has filed a lawsuit against Hildreth for his alleged misuse of the credit card. He denies he has a personal vendetta against Hildreth and refuses to discuss his sour history with the mayor.
"Talk to my lawyer," he said.
Hildreth supporters call Eck a bully, and those in his corner "chronic complainers" who suggest little in solving the problems of the day.
The ugly campaign went a step further this week when Eck placed an electronic reader board, the one usually reserved for construction zones, on the front lawn of Howard Erickson, a retired glass worker who served three terms as Pacific mayor and two years on the City Council.
The sign flashed an anti-Hildreth message to passing motorists on Butte Avenue.
"Look at this patched up road?" Erickson said. "Nothing gets done."
The unkept roads upset Erickson, who questions the mayor's leadership and the City's unwise spending.
"The whole thing is a fiasco," Erickson said.
And so too is a race that is long on accusations and attacks but short on ethics and fails to examine the real issues affecting Pacific.
Voters deserve better.Contact Auburn Reporter Regional Editor Mark Klaas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-253-833-0218 (ext 5050).