Oceanside candidate believes city endorsed dead candidate

Posted at 7:00 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-04 22:00:46-04

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - A North County woman running against a deceased man is now accusing the city of Oceanside of meddling in the election.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission is now deciding whether it wants to investigate the race for Oceanside City Treasurer between Nadine Scott and Gary Ernst.

Ernst died last month from complications related to diabetes, but it's too late for the county Registrar of Voters to take him off the ballot.

If he wins, the Oceanside City Council will either call a special election or can appoint his replacement.

That's what some, including Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, want to happen. He's still publicly backing Ernst even though he's passed away.

"Vote for him anyway because that way we can get somebody who is qualified," said Kern, a political foe of Scott.

Scott, an attorney, said she has decades of applicable experience, including overseeing finances for a public organization. She said she can defend herself against politicians, but it's what the city sent out Monday that she believes crossed the line.

"I have been roundly attacked and criticized," she said. "They have tried to denigrate my credentials, me as a person."

The latest edition of the city's official newsletter, called the Oceanside Tide, led with news of Ernst's death. It listed his credentials and explained to voters that if he's re-elected, the City Council will either call a special election or appoint his replacement.

"The fact that they did not mention there was another candidate and they put all his bonafides out there as though it is a tacit campaign statement; the unfairness of it, makes me wonder what's happening at city hall," Scott said.

Oceanside City Manager Michelle Lawrence said there was no political message in the newsletter.

"Our intent was to let the employees and folks who are signed up for our newsletter to know about the passing of the elected official and then to accurately reflect the election code going forward," she said. "We certainly weren’t trying to promote any candidate at all."

Scott filed a complaint with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. A spokesman for the agency confirmed receiving the complaint and said it's under review to determine whether the launch an investigation.

A review could take a few days or a few weeks, the spokesman said.