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Mike Dunbar: 21st Assembly District race downright scary

It’s no wonder Halloween falls so close to Election Day. Both can be scary.

For instance, blue-party partisans are predicting apocalyptic repercussions nationally if the Republicans win the Senate. They’re terrified because midterm elections generally draw only political red-hots, and this year those are mostly Republicans. A Republican Senate will alter the political geometry, but it’s not the end of days.

Locally, Democrats are scared by the money being poured into Jack Mobley’s campaign against Adam Gray in the Assembly’s 21st District – which includes all of Merced and part of Stanislaus counties.

That this has become a close race is hard to fathom. Mobley had to be persuaded at the last minute even to run; he had few local backers, and he has lost the race for this seat no fewer than three times.

According to an interview with another Merced-area publication, Mobley decided to run only after California Republican Party boss Jim Brulte promised him the race wouldn’t cost him much. But it’s sure costing someone. A raft of people from far outside the region have been spending big bucks in the district, often through “independent expenditures.” All totaled, it appears to exceed $800,000, and it’s drawn the attention of those who monitor campaign shenanigans.

Almost all of that money has been used to go negative, with some ads bordering on silly. One chastises Gray for accepting his paycheck. Will Mobley do differently? And some of it is just plain wrong. The California Chamber of Commerce, not known for being liberal, refuted one Mobley claim, then lauded Gray’s bipartisanship.

We’re not sure why Brulte targeted Gray. No Democrat in Sacramento has worked more closely with Republicans to get things done. Gray joined Republican Kristin Olsen to lobby Gov. Jerry Brown to get more money for storage into Proposition 1. Gray and Republican Anthony Cannella joined forces to raise money to help promote the water bond. Perhaps that’s why so many traditionally conservative-leaning organizations – the Merced and Stanislaus farm bureaus, the California Small Business Association, Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Modesto Police Officers Association, etc. – have endorsed him.

No matter. Apparently, this is now a toss-up, thanks partly to motivated Republican and complacent Democrat voters.

Earlier this year we applauded our Legislature for actually getting things done, unlike Congress. What Boss Brulte is doing is far more reminiscent of Washington rancor than the new Sacramento pragmatism that we have enjoyed over the most recent legislative session. Why would anyone take his party – and state – down such a dark path?

Door-to-door campaigning has been one of Gray’s strengths. Maybe he needs to be out there Friday night, explaining the harm to be done from political tricks pulled by out-of-area bogeymen.

Opinions Page Editor Mike Dunbar can be reached at mdunbar@mercedsun-star.com.

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