And here is the story in full:
Marin judicial candidate accused of implying incumbency in campaign materials
(a) A person is guilty of a misdemeanor who, with intent to mislead the voters in connection with his or her campaign for nomination or election to a public office, or in connection with the campaign of another person for nomination or election to a public office, does either of the following acts:
(1) Assumes, pretends, or implies, by his or her statements, conduct, or campaign materials, that he or she is the incumbent of a public office when that is not the case.
(2) Assumes, pretends, or implies, by his or her statements, conduct, or campaign materials, that he or she is or has been acting in the capacity of a public officer when that is not the case.
(b) A violation of this section may be enjoined in a civil action brought by a candidate for the public office involved.
Nancy McCarthy, one of nine candidates in the June 7 primary, has come under scrutiny for campaign signs and materials that prominently display the words “Judge” and “Nancy” together in large letters.
Although the two words are separated by a small star or thin vertical line on her campaign signs, her campaign website goes further. It is designed to place the words “Judge” and “Nancy” close together, unseparated by any characters, in a type size about twice as large as the other words.
Under state Elections Code Section 18350, it is a misdemeanor when a candidate, in an effort to “mislead” voters, “assumes, pretends, or implies, by his or her statements, conduct, or campaign materials, that he or she is the incumbent of a public office when that is not the case.”
Violators can be subject to civil action by other candidates.
District Attorney Edward Berberian referred the matter to the California Attorney General’s Office because his office has a conflict of interest. Three of his prosecutors are running for the same seat as McCarthy.
Brenda Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said state prosecutors are reviewing the matter.
Gonzalez said she did not have statistics on how often Section 18350 charges are filed in the state. In Marin, a records search going back to 2002 shows no Section 18350 filings by county prosecutors, said Assistant District Attorney Barry Borden.
No complaints against McCarthy or any of the other judicial candidates have been filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, spokesman Jay Wierenga said Thursday.
In addition to McCarthy, a labor and employment lawyer, the candidates include Otis Bruce, a county prosecutor; Michael Coffino, a public defender; Beth Jordan, a family law specialist; Sheila Lichtblau, a deputy county counsel; Renee Marcelle, a family law attorney; Thomas McCallister, a county prosecutor; Nicole Pantaleo, a county prosecutor; and David Shane, a personal injury lawyer. They are running for the seat being vacated by Judge Faye D’Opal when her term ends in December.
“As a parent, as a citizen, I just feel like they’re over the line,” she said. “And I’m trying to teach my kids to be wise about marketing.”
“If it said ‘Vote President Clinton’ for Hillary, everyone would be up in arms,” she said. “It’s over the line. The more I see it, the more irritated I get.”
Tara Higgins, a defense attorney, called McCarthy’s approach “underhanded” and unbefitting a candidate for judge.
“Clearly she approved this method of getting votes but she’s vying for a job that requires the highest level of integrity and ethics,” said Higgins, who has endorsed Bruce, Coffino and Pantaleo. “She’s failed already on both counts because her method of campaigning demonstrates she’ll try to get votes at any cost.”
McCarthy, in an email Thursday, said her materials are not intended to mislead but to help her stand out. She said she emphasized her first name because she is “sandwiched” alphabetically in the middle of nine candidates, three of whom have last names that start with M.
“In fact, I would never want to be considered an ‘incumbent’ in this race because that would indicate that I was such a loser of a judge that 8 attorneys decided to run against me,” she wrote.
In addition, she said, campaign signs “are small and it is hard to see what office someone is running for, emphasizing the word Judge, makes clear the position sought.”
She noted that Marcelle’s website has the candidate’s name at the top, with the line “Marin Superior Court Judge” underneath.
McCarthy also cited the campaign materials for Lichtblau, who is pictured with endorser Lynn Duryee, a retired judge who is now a mediator. Duryee is wearing a judicial robe.
“Is that misleading?” McCarthy said. “Where did the robes ‘prop’ come from?”
Lichtblau said: “My campaign has been very careful to follow all campaign laws, including the California Code of Judicial Ethics. I’m proud to have my candidacy supported by current and former judges.”
He also said candidates are broadly violating state and local rules against posting campaign signs in medians, fences or properties without permission.
“A prime example of this contrast between me and other candidates can be found at the intersection of Sir Francis Drake and Bon Air Road and all along Sir Francis Drake leading up to that intersection from both directions,” he said in an email. “There you will find many signs posted in the medians and on public fencing. My signs are only posted on Marin Catholic property with permission of the President of Marin Catholic or otherwise with permission of property and business owners.”
“This is what our community should expect from all candidates, especially judicial candidates, who are seeking a position in our community that requires that they know our laws and that they follow and enforce them.”
Other candidates declined to comment on McCarthy’s signs or could not be reached Thursday.