With Republican Craig Huey and Democrat Al Muratsuchi in a neck-and-neck race for the new 66th Assembly District, the candidates have exchanged blows over issues of integrity.
Huey and Muratsuchi were the top-two finishers in the June primary for the Assembly seat, which is considered by many to be one of the few swing districts in the state Assembly and a key pickup for Democrats in their quest for a supermajority. There is no incumbent.
The campaign took a negative turn in late August, when Huey, a Torrance small-business owner who lives in Rolling Hills Estates, sent out a mailer demanding that Muratsuchi return his contributions from the powerful California Teachers Association after the union opposed a bill that would expedite the removal process for teachers who are sexual predators.
State records indicate that the California Teachers Association, which has endorsed Muratsuchi, donated $15,600 to the Democrat’s campaign—$7,800 in April and another $7,800 in September.
Muratsuchi, a lawyer in the California Attorney General’s Office and a current member of the Torrance Board of Education, wrote in a letter that he would have supported the bill, SB 1530, but would not return the funds contributed by the teachers’ union. He proceeded to attack Huey’s work as CEO of Creative Marketing Solutions, a direct-mail advertising company.
“You made a great deal of that money promoting products that scammed investors, marketed snake-oil remedies to seniors claiming they cure Alzheimers, and promoted Ponzi schemes that stole people’s nest eggs,” Muratsuchi wrote in a public letter dated Sept. 6.
Huey called Muratsuchi’s allegations completely false. At a candidates’ debate and other occasions, Huey demanded Muratsuchi retract his claims.
Muratsuchi’s campaign insists that Huey’s past business dealings are fair game.
“He has a junk-mail company,” said Muratsuchi campaign consultant Mike Shimpock. “His whole business is based on draining people’s pockets.”
Shimpock pointed to Huey’s affiliation with Gero Vita, a company fined more than $30 million by the Federal Trade Commission for selling fake Alzheimer’s and diabetes cures.
Huey strongly denies the allegations, and his attorney, James Sutton, has filed legal paperwork demanding that Muratsuchi’s campaign retract the statements.
“His statements were libelous to my company and caused monetary damage,” said Huey.
Pointing to his more than 1,000 clients and 77 awards, Huey stressed that he never marketed any products that had been sanctioned by the FTC.
On the issue of vitamin cures, Huey said the alternative health market is legitimate and does not deserve to be treated as a scam.
“To say these products are fraudulent is an insult to the entire industry, including Whole Foods and other stores that sell alternative medicine products,” he said.
Shimpock said the Muratsuchi campaign won’t be dissuaded from attacking Huey’s business by threats of legal action.
“This is an intimidation tactic,” he said. “The fact is that the tactics he used in his junk-mail business are not going to work here. He needs to be honest with who he’s worked with and what he’s done.”
For Huey, the legal action will continue regardless of the election results. In addition to suing for monetary damage, he is asking Attorney General Kamala Harris to either fire Muratsuchi or compel him to resign. Huey’s attorney has also filed a complaint against Muratsuchi with the state bar.
As of Oct. 25, the most recent mandatory reporting date for campaign finances, Huey reported having $255,351.06 cash on hand for the final stretch, having spent a total of $976,377.45 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 20. Muratsuchi reported having $371,677.64 cash on hand and spending $1,424,723.18 during the same time period. Both candidates have spent significant amounts of their own money on the campaign, with Huey loaning himself $100,000 and Muratsuchi loaning himself $45,000.
Voters head to the polls on Tuesday.