Georgette Gómez visits with an audience member after recent La Mesa debate that addressed issues foreign and domestic. Photo by Chris Stone

The congressional campaign of San Diego Councilwoman Georgette Gómez on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against leading 53rd District rival Sara Jacobs, a fellow Democrat.

“The Jacobs’ campaigns are engaged in deceptive advertising to boost Jacobs’ Republican opponent, [Chris] Stoddard, in an underhanded attempt to manipulate the election and deceive San Diegans’ into voting for a Republican,” said the complaint.

Dan Rottenstreich, Gómez campaign strategist, asked the agency to investigate alleged violations involving mailers “and take immediate action.”

The Jacobs campaign responded by saying the mailer touting Stoddard didn’t come from them “and we don’t know who sent it.”

Georgette Gómez complaint against Sara Jacobs. (PDF)

The campaign called the Gómez allegations “the type of silly, baseless attack you often see right before Election Day and voters are tired of it. Quite frankly, we expect better from fellow Democrats. Sara will stay focused on talking to voters about what she will do to make their lives better, as she has been doing throughout this campaign.”

Rottenstreich told Times of San Diego that “if this deceptive Republican mailer didn’t come from the official Jacobs campaign, it probably came from the shadowy Jacobs Super PAC funded by her family’s fortune.”

The Gómez spokesman said the mailer mirrors TV ads run by the Jacobs campaign itself.

“Cozy coordination and deceptive campaigning are examples of how billionaires think they can break the rules the rest of us have to follow,” he added.

Contacted via Facebook, Stoddard said: “I’m not sure who sent [the mailer] and I won’t speculate. But I appreciate the free advertising!”

In a press release, Gómez said: “Just days after Sara Jacobs, heiress to the Qualcomm tech fortune, used her inherited millions to launch a deceptive TV ad to manipulate a Congressional election and boost a Republican candidate, anonymous mailers began hitting thousands of San Diego mailboxes on behalf of that same Republican.”

Gómez said the mailers were sent without the legally required “paid for by” disclaimer in an attempt to hide from public view the true source of funding behind them.

“It is not immediately clear whether the mailers came from Sara Jacobs’ congressional campaign or a Super PAC funded with $1.5 million from Jacobs’ billionaire grandparents,” Gómez said in a statement. “However, the Jacobs campaign and the Jacobs Super PAC, funded by the candidate’s family, are the only entities spending money to elect Jacobs.

Rottenstreich, the Gómez aide, said: “It is clear that Jacobs is using her fortune to try and trick San Diegans into voting for a Republican, and they’re even willing to violate federal laws to hide deceptive spending from the public. This is the kind of unethical disinformation campaign you’d expect from Trump, not a Democratic campaign for Congress.”

In recent polling, Jacobs leads with 23% followed by the GOP’s Stoddard with 10%. Gómez was tied with Republican Famela Ramos with 5% support.

Nearly a year ago, Jose Caballero became the first Democrat in the race — even when Davis was still thought to be running for re-election.

He said Gómez was making baseless accusations that “really shows desperation” and was using “deceptive tactics” to get her name in the news.

Caballero said the Gómez campaign was thinking: “We’re just going to throw assumptions out there.” He said he didn’t like FEC resources being used to process complaints “that you have no real evidence (for).”

He didn’t have a problem with a Jacobs TV spot contrasting her stands with Stoddard’s.

“Strategically, it does behoove her to say there’s only one real Republican in the race, so people can consolidate around that one person — pushing the other Democrat out,” Caballero said. “There’s nothing illegal about it.” 

The top two candidates in the 53rd District advance to a November runoff in the heavily Democratic district represented by Rep. Susan Davis, who opted to retire after 10 terms.

Cabellero had another gripe with Gómez — or at least her “establishment” supporters.

“Hopefully, people can read between the lines and see that there is an actual progressive that is in the race,” he said of himself. “The establishment powers that be are trying to play games with people’s lives.”

He noted the endorsements of Gómez by Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the national branch of Our Revolution, the Sanders-inspired group.

“I have the local Our Revolution endorsement,” Caballero said in a phone interview. “She has the national. There’s a broken cog somewhere in the machine. I don’t know what’s happening.”

Updated at 4:15 p.m. Feb. 27, 2020

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