Opinion: Election season is getting uglier; it’s time for our city prosecutor to call for reinforcements

What can you say about the current campaigning in Long Beach politics that hasn’t already been said about rancid food, weeping sores and flying cockroaches?

The word “disgusting” leaps immediately to mind and then sits down and refuses to budge until it is finally gently escorted away by the Three Rs, repulsive, repelling and revolting.

In the past several days there’ve been text messages and social media posts sent out in District 8 with maliciously false information, which is, sadly, fairly normal these days and affects voters who:  A., read text messages and political social media posts, and B., believe what they read. That caper is not uncommon in a season that’s seen absolutely horrible accusations flying back and forth between the candidates for City Council in the 2nd District, both of whom, Robert Fox and Cindy Allen, make one yearn for the days when Jeannine Pearce ran things. You always think things will get better, and those dreams are too frequently shattered.

Also somehow embroiled in the season’s dose of monkey business are the Ovalle brothers, Juan and Carlos, both of whom have had their Facebook accounts hijacked by an imposter or two, though, again, who bases their opinions on what anyone says on Facebook?

But the week’s biggest batch of weirdness came in little cat feet during the predawn hours of Thursday, when about a dozen people, mostly politicians, were awakened (or continued to sleep and let voicemail take over) by a robo call from a spoofed phone number ostensibly (but not really) from Area 4 Long Beach City College Board of Trustees candidate Dick Gaylord that was nothing more than some spirited sex sounds that quickly became an earworm that could only be dispatched by listening to REM sing the Richard Linklater line from “Slackers,” “withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy,” which is undeniably an anthem for this year’s local election season at least in District 2, though districts 6 and 8 are also in the hunt.

Virtually all the crank calls were received between 4:22 and 4:24 a.m., save for Uduak-Joe Ntuk, who must be in the Platinum Club to warrant an early-bird special call at 3:54 a.m.

If you’re not one of the cool kids and didn’t receive a call and are possessed of a perverse curiosity about what the message sounded like, just imagine a drunk couple trying to vocally imitate a poorly maintained freight train rumbling through the port for 32 seconds.

Who’s behind all this? Nobody knows, and there’s no particular common denominator among its recipients, who range from an unaffiliated female Long Beach City College professor (whose spoofed phone number was used to send the message to Gaylord, while the others got their calls from the spoofed Gaylord number or a “no caller ID”) to Keir Jones, a Signal Hill city councilman, along with various candidates and elected officials ranging from council members to Board of Education members—some, but not all of whom, have endorsed various candidates.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot couldn’t sort this mess out, and Doug Haubert, Long Beach’s elected city prosecutor, hasn’t been able to get a handle on the mess, either. There are too many fingers pointing in too many directions—labor and police unions, Roger Stonesque campaign managers, chiefs of various staffs, families of candidates and, of course the candidates themselves—it’s hard to find anyone who’s been behaving civilly since the primaries.

Still, Haubert said that he’s taking the whole business of campaign fakery seriously, but, he acknowledged, “It won’t be easy” to track down the culprit(s).

“The problem of dirty tricks in politics has been around a long time,” he said. “But new technology gives people new ways to do dirty tricks.”

Haubert said he’s reached out to the police department, and he plans to reach out to other agencies “to help put an end to this despicable conduct.”

A few suggestions for Haubert include the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division, or the California Department of Justice, or the Fair Political Practices Commission, or any group that’s able to deal with these matters.

In any case, I would strongly urge Haubert to not try to grapple with twisted matter by himself but rather to get help on the horn quickly in an earnest effort to get these matters squared away before the Nov. 3 election, lest some shady and disreputable people will scoot into office to do a term’s worth of damage.

Though, at the risk of sounding a tad cynical based on this season’s slate of hopefuls, that’s likely to occur no matter how you vote. It’s just a matter of degrees and how much deception you can live with.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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