For decades, former Ventura County District Attorney Michael Bradbury has been a stalwart Republican with a fondness for throwing his name around in political campaigns. Although he keeps a much lower public profile these days, Bradbury is at it again -- this time with a surprising twist. He's endorsing a Democrat, Oxnard Harbor Commissioner Jason Hodge in the three-candidate primary in the 19th Senate District that includes Republican Mike Stoker, a former Santa Barbara County supervisor.
Although the public announcement was made just today, Hodge tells me that Bradbury "has been a very strong supporter from early on. I know Mike and Mike knows me, and he knows that I have a history of bipartisan cooperation."
Stoker took the news with grace when I informed him of the endorsement this morning. "Now that I know he has an interest in the 19th Senate District race," he said, "Mike Bradbury will be one of the first people I go see the day after the primary."
That statement presumes that Stoker and former Democratic Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson would be the two candidates to emerge from the primary, with Hodge becoming the odd man out.
Meanwhile, the back-and-forth between the two Democrats is becoming more intense. Jackson sent out an email appeal to supporters this asking them to help her fight Hodge's "dirty tricks."
She writes: "The negative ads have already started. It's no surprise. My opponent who is funded by powerful special interests representing the oil, insurance, tobacco and pesticide industries is already up to dirty tricks."
The reference appears to be to a television ad released by Hodge this week in which he refers to himself as "a Democrat who doesn't think you need higher taxes." Although he does not refer to Jackson by name, the implication is clear.
Meanwhile, a Jackson TV ad released this week says she'll "stand up to the special interests" -- an indirect reference to the fact that Hodge has received substantial funding from interest groups that more typically support Republicans, including the insurance, pharmaceutical and pesticide industries.
The Jackson campaign further asserts that Hodge is becoming beholden to tobacco and oil industry interests. The basis for that is a $2,500 contribution he received from a group called FAIRPAC, sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California. The Civil Justice group has received funding over the years from, among others, BP, Chevron and Philip Morris. It's worth noting, however, that the documentation for this dates back several years. Hodge notes he can find no record of any oil or tobacco contributions since 2010 -- a point at which the fund was depleted.
The Jackson campaign's assertion about pesticide industry contributons, however, is indisputable. Hodge has as recently as March received direct contributions from pesticide manufacturer Monsanto and pesticide distributor Trical Inc.
Hodge said his campaign will not accept direct or indirect contributions from the oil and tobacco industries, and that for Jackson to assert he has accepted money indirectly through the Civil Justice Association "appears to be an act of desperation."
He also notes that Jackson -- and again, I'll point out, indirectly -- received personal compensation from the oil company PXP through her work two years ago as a consultant to Santa Barbara's Environmental Defense Center. The environmental group believed it was in the best long-term interests of eliminating oil drilling off the Santa Babara coast by supporting a deal that would have allowed PXP to drill new wells immediately in exchange for shutting down others and removing onshore processing facilities later.
"Ask her how much she took to increase offshore oil drilling off the coast of California," Hodge told me.
And so it goes.