Ben Levy: Voter suppression cost Pflueger District 1 race
The final count for the District 1 State Senate primary have tallied: Democrat Silke Pflueger’s 40,304 votes (25.8% of the vote) were not enough to move her on to the runoff between the top two vote-getters. She needed an additional 4,216 votes to do so.
But something was amiss.
Pflueger was the only Democrat still running, yet Steven Baird — a Republican who ran as a Democrat before announcing his withdrawal from the competition in February — siphoned 9,035 votes (5.8% of the vote).
Voters in District 1 received a mailer encouraging them to vote for either Steve Baird or Assemblyman Brian Dahle. It portrayed Baird as a progressive Democrat and Dahle as a Republican, claiming each represents a good choice, depending on your respective party.
“This mailer was designed to deceive voters and have them throw their vote away by voting for a candidate that has dropped out of the race,” Pflueger wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
Baird, who ran for the same seat as a Republican in 2016, was portrayed both by himself and by the mailer as a supporter of free education, universal health care, and voting rights. On his website he expressed support for “late term abortions up to and including the 25th year.”
Baird switched his party registration from Republican to Democrat in 2017, despite having spent 2016 working closely with the conservative State of Jefferson movement, which sought to create a 51st state out of parts of rural California and Oregon. During his 2016 state Senate campaign he described himself as a “climate change denier” and opposed increasing minimum wage.
The mailer was paid for by the California Professional Firefighters PAC and “Taxfighters for Brian Dahle for State Senate 2019,” which received $85,000 from the California Correctional Peace Officer’s Association and $150,000 from the California Association of Realtors. All have spent money in support of Dahle.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Dahle told The Union. “It’s not anything I control. They do things on their own.”
Despite denying involvement, Dahle conveyed little concern about voters being misled.
“People that have died while on the ballot have won, in some cases,” he said.
In the year following his switch of party affiliation to Democrat, Baird published a book, “My Kvetch: True Confessions of a Democrat Politician.”
The book is an apparent attempt by Baird to mock Democrats by pretending to be one then mocking himself. In the foreword, which he misspells as “forward,” he describes his childhood self as “hazing target” who was “vertically challenged and nearsighted.”
Describing his adult self, he writes his “goal (in politics) is to serve one’s self and to have a seat at that glorious table set only for the most worthy; those of us devoid of a single shred or moral fiber or consciousness.”
Ben Levy lives in Nevada City.
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Several years ago, I wrote “The myth of the accidental overdose” (April 19, 2019, Other Voices, The Union).