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Mistake points to need for campaign diligence

By From page A8 | January 26, 2014

The campaign season for Solano County Superintendent of Schools Jay Speck got off to a bumpy start this week when a government email account was used to announce Speck’s bid for re-election.

Associate Superintendent of Schools Janet Harden took pains to provide private contact information within the announcement, then inadvertently sent it from her Office of Education email account.

Speck, to his credit, immediately acknowledged that use of an Office of Education email account for campaign purposes was wrong. He said it won’t happen again. Harden quickly apologized to Speck and to the journalists who received the initial email.

It was likely an innocent mistake, one that’s easy to make, one that caused no apparent harm.

However, this is just one possible countywide race leading to the June 3 election.

We can expect a contested race in the Solano County Board of Supervisors 4th District, with three announced candidates that include the incumbent. Another contested race is taking shape – albeit not formally announced – in the 3rd District, where the incumbent has announced his bid for re-election. Then there are the other elected county positions, all potential ballot contests: assessor-recorder, auditor-controller, district attorney, sheriff-coroner, and treasurer-tax collector.

These are all positions with compensation packages in excess of six figures in a county where the median household income is around $70,000. Take note that that’s household income. We live in an age where two-income households are more the norm than the exception, so a single income in excess of six figures is a boon.

These are public dollars – financed by taxpayers; for public positions – to serve county residents.

The laws that govern campaign activity aim at least in part to allow a somewhat even playing field. These laws require, for example, that public resources not be used for campaign purposes, with a specific eye toward not allowing a candidate to gain a political advantage based on his or her campaign’s use of public resources.

These are the rules that all must abide by. It is in the public interest for candidates and officeholders alike to do so.

This week’s email incident appears to be a simple mistake. This incident, though, illustrates how easy it is for campaigns to cross the line, even inadvertently.

We encourage all candidates for office – and those working on their behalf – to remain vigilant in following the rules that govern our elections so we can have fair campaigns this spring and summer.

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