A tale of a scorched-earth congressional campaign.
March 30, 2018
Recently Regina Bateson, one of four Democratic candidates running to replace Republican Tom McClintock in California's 4th Congressional District, filed a lawsuit against the California Secretary of State challenging the ballot designation of rival Democrat, Jessica Morse as a "National Security Fellow" in the upcoming June Primary Election. Regina won the litigious back-and-forth case and as a result, Jessica had no better option than to leave her designation blank:
Needless to say, this presents a new obstacle for Jessica’s prospects at winning the June Primary.
Candidates Regina Bateson, Roza Calderon, and newcomer Robert Lawton have seized upon this moment to paint Jessica as intentionally trying to mislead voters. (Regina’s statement here. Roza’s statement here. Lawton here.) In fact, many of their most strident supporters have taken to social media to accuse Jessica of lying in a Tweetstorm that would make even Vladimir Putin envious:
All of this has left those of us involved with the effort to replace Republican Tom McClintock scratching our heads and feeling a little discouraged. We must therefore, take a close look at all of the facts and understand exactly what happened.
The Facts About Jessica Morse
From March 2005 through May 2015, Jessica Morse worked for USAID, the State Department, and US Pacific Command (Defense Department), and held a number of different roles revolving around national security, policy, and budgeting. Her resume is very impressive and is validated by numerous individuals who have worked with Jessica while she held these roles. Given the abundance of verifiable information presented, anyone with any sense or reason would be more than comfortable describing Jessica as a National Security Strategist.
In 2011 Jessica’s mother passed away. The next few years were a time of mourning and reflection, and in May of 2015 she left USAID to begin a period of discovery and growth. (Remember this date.)
A little over a year later in July, 2016, Jessica became activated by the malfeasance surrounding the Trump presidential campaign and paused her book-writing efforts to wholly commit herself to working on Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. After Trump won the election, Jessica began contemplating a run for Congress to represent CA-04 and later in 2017 she began a three-month listening tour, traveling across our vast district to meet with and hear from constituents.
In December, 2017 Jessica was admitted into membership with the Truman National Security Project. This is a very big deal worthy of our attention. Recently, Michael Breen, President and CEO of the Truman Center for National Policy had this to say about Jessica:
“Jessica’s professional background in national security and demonstrated potential for further leadership made her a compelling candidate for membership. She continues to serve as a member in good standing.”
Read his full statement here.
If her street-cred as a National Security Strategist wasn’t already established, this seals the deal. Jessica Morse is a National Security Strategist.
So why wasn’t she allowed to put that designation on the ballot?
Before we explain, it's important to first point out that Alex Padilla, the California Secretary of State, had approved Jessica's request to be designated as a "National Security Fellow." Regina Bateson sued Padilla to have it removed. Padilla defended the decision to allow Jessica's ballot designation and requested that the case be dismissed. Bateson then fired back and the judge ultimately decided in favor of Regina Bateson.
That's the long explanation. The short answer to what happened is that Jessica got caught in a technicality. Despite her prolific experience as a National Security Strategist she is not able to claim the designation on the ballot for one simple reason: The rules for designation state that a candidate must have held the role within the past year and have been compensated for work in that role.
Since Jessica left USAID in 2015, and because her role as a Truman National Security Project Fellow is unpaid, she is being denied the ability to claim the designation in the June Primary. (Note - It is likely that Jessica will take work between now and November so that she may properly claim her rightful designation in the General Election.)
They say all is fair in love and war and politics, but never in our wildest imaginations did we foresee Democrats turning on a fellow Democratic candidate to the point of helping the Republican incumbent. The effort is providing Tom McClintock with what can be only considered material support for future attacks on the eventual candidate and their continued attacks on Jessica are making his job easier every day.
(It’s worth calling out at this point that last year during the many candidate forums, all three women pledged to run 'clean' campaigns, absent of mudslinging, etc.)
The irony of all this is that Regina Bateson has been on leave without pay from her job as an assistant professor in Massachusetts since last June (a job she may likely return to should her effort in CA-04 not pan out), and it is likely that Roza hasn’t done any work since she left her last job at Mountain G. Enterprises in April of last year (from her LinkedIn profile). (Note - Roza does have her own business (link), but it’s unknown if she’s received any compensation for work done with her company in the last year.)
It all comes down to timing. A few more months and it’s likely that neither Regina or Roza would’ve been able to defend their ballot designations. Take a moment and carefully review the experience of each candidate, and ask yourself how well their ballot designations match up with their experience:
It’s a very discouraging turn of events. All three women are remarkable in their own way and each would make a spectacular replacement for do-nothing backbencher/carpetbagger Tom McClintock.
However, instead of staying steadfastly focused on their own campaigns and saving their attacks for McClintock, Bateson and Calderon have turned on the frontrunner. With Robert Lawton adding his name to the ballot just before the registration deadline as a fourth Democrat, the possibility of no Democrat winning one of the top two slots in the June Primary election is increasingly plausible. This would send McClintock and Republican Mitchell White to the November General Election with an all-Republican ticket. (California has a top-two primary system where only the top two vote-getters advance to the general election in November, regardless of party affiliation.)
Perhaps this is what Bateson, Calderon and Lawton want. By turning to a ‘scorched-earth’ campaign they could effectively punt our efforts to 2020, providing them with a second chance at winning the seat. Regina's attacks are most surprising given her precarious position after pledging in early January to drop out of the race if she did not win endorsement from the Democratic Party. (Jessica won the endorsement. SacBee story here.)
What’s ironic here is that by drawing attention to the issue, Bateson, Calderon, and Lawton are calling attention to Jessica’s impressive resumé while throwing shade on their own campaigns with the poisonous rhetoric of their supporters. There is a way forward, but it requires each of us to get involved.
Do you recall how since the Indivisible Guide became popular, we've all been imploring each other to contact our representatives to tell them how we feel?
It’s time to flex that old familiar muscle once again, but this time, don’t direct your phone calls, emails, and letters to McClintock. Instead, WRITE TO YOUR FAVORITE DEM CANDIDATE!! Ask them to put an end to the circular firing squad we now find ourselves in, and insist that they ask their supporters to stay positive and save their attacks for Tom McClintock!
Here’s the best part. Unlike McClintock where we have no leverage to get him to act, if you've ever donated to one of these candidates you have a GIANT lever you can pull to motivate them into action.
Insist that the candidates delete all posts and tweets denigrating other candidates, and that they call on their supporters to cease with their attacks online. If they don’t comply, simply REQUEST A REFUND OF YOUR DONATION.
It's not unusual to request a refund for political donations, so don't feel bad for asking. It's your money and your vote! Below is contact information for all four Democratic candidates:
Too many of us have worked too hard for too long to allow vindictive candidates and their supporters to undermine our collective mission to oust Tom McClintock. If they expect to be our representative, they need to start acting like one.
Update 4/23 - A previous version of this blog post said Jessica was "forced" to leave her designation blank. This isn't entirely accurate. She had the option to submit another designation, but with no other designation possible that would accurately describe her experience, she chose to leave the designation blank.
Also, it was brought to our attention that the quote from Michael Breen, President and CEO of the Truman Center for National Policy might have been interpreted as an endorsement. This is not the case. You can read his full statement here.