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While average voters generally grumble about how "partisan" bickering and backstabbing has soured them on politics, if the truth be told there is nothing nastier in politics than an intraparty battle.

There are myriad examples on both sides: Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn's sleazy 2001 campaign mailer against fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa that featured a picture of a crack cocaine pipe and intimated dark ties to the drug-trafficking underworld. Or Sen. Richard Alarcon's infamous 1998 mailer that falsely intimated that his Democratic primary opponent, former Assemblyman Richard Katz had been involved in a 1988 scheme in Orange County in which armed guards were stationed near polling places in an effort to intimidate Latino voters.

In a couple of this year's hottest Republican primaries, similar racially charged dirty tricks are beginning to unfold. In a Sacramento-area congressional primary, Sen. Rico Oller has sent out mailers with a photo of a turban-wearing terrorist. On the turban are images of Latino immigrants. The piece assails one of Oller's opponents, former congressman and state Attorney General Dan Lungren, for his 1986 support in Congress for an immigration reform bill that was ultimately signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Also, in a Republican primary for a state Senate seat in Orange County, Assemblyman Ken Maddox this week sent a hit piece against fellow Assemblyman John Campbell that features a photo of Osama bin Laden.

That brought this quip from Campbell campaign strategist Dave Gilliard: "The over-under on when we would see the first photo of Osama bin Laden surface in the primaries was Feb. 24. Ken really surprised us, using an Osama photo this early."

It probably won't be long before similarly hard-hitting, emotional and, yes, just plain sleazy campaign mail begins showing up in Ventura County households in the 37th Assembly District, home of the hottest GOP Assembly primary in the state. It's a fairly safe bet that at least one of the candidates will find a way to accuse another of being soft on illegal immigration.

95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at