Campaign TV ads and mailers have been vicious and nonstop this election season, as national political power brokers pour money and resources into all-out efforts to win.
Nearly $12 million has flowed into 10th Congressional District campaigns, and an additional $6 million has been dumped into the state's 5th Senate District race mostly on blistering TV ads designed to tear down rival candidates.
Democrats and Republicans both think they can win those Northern San Joaquin Valley seats, so they're going full force to capture votes.
The result has been a deluge of attack ads, accusations and partisan politics.
Valley folks are not accustomed to that because races here usually aren't so negative, said Nathan Monroe, a political science professor at the University of California at Merced.
But independent political action committees controlled by out-of-the-region interests "are driving the negativity," Monroe said, and they don't have the same civility standards as typical valley candidates.
Those PACs are funded by anonymous donors and theoretically at least they're not controlled by the candidates.
"That anonymity creates a breeding ground for nastiness," Monroe warned.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC, for instance, have spent $3.1 million advertising against Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the 10th District race.
Those Democratic PAC ads don't even mention Democratic candidate Jose Hernandez.
But Hernandez's name has come up plenty in the $3.8 million worth of opposition ads funded by the National Republican Congressional Committee and the American Action Network.
"Both the Republican and Democratic parties see this as a real battleground district where they have a chance to gain a seat, or at least not lose a seat in Congress," explained Dave Colnic, a political science professor at California State University, Stanislaus.
"They're both doing a decent job of slinging mud," Colnic said. "The political scientist in me says this sort of race could be indicative of what's to come in the future."
Chad Condit warned about this kind of thing last spring while waging his nonpartisan bid for election to the 10th Congressional seat. The Ceres independent garnered 15 percent of the primary vote in his third-place finish.
"The national parties are really running the show now," Condit said last week. "It's really symbolic of where we're at in this country and who's going to be in control, the Republicans or the Democrats."
Drawing new lines
The Northern San Joaquin Valley races never used to get this much attention. But last year's population-based redistricting created new boundaries that made the 10th Congressional and 5th Senate districts politically balanced.
Democrats want to win here to help them take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and to gain a two-thirds majority in the California Senate.
So two former Assembly allies, Democrat Cathleen Galgiani and Republican Bill Berryhill, now are fighting to become a state senator in the 5th District. About $2.4 million in independent PAC money has been invested in that race.
Sacramento TV stations have been raking in big bucks selling high-priced airtime to those political action committees.
Those stations also are packing in ads for hot races in the 9th Congressional District between Ricky Gill and Jerry McNerney in San Joaquin County, and in the 7th Congressional District race between Dan Lungren and Amerish Bera in the Sacramento region.
"Sacramento ended up being one of the top TV markets for political advertising in the country this year," said Dave Gilliard, Denham's political adviser. "Everybody is paying top dollar for TV ads, and the rates are much higher than they were two years ago."
As the campaigns moved into their final weeks, they shifted into get-out-the-vote efforts focused on phone calls and mailed brochures.
"Our volunteers have made more than 250,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 75,000 doors," said Dan Krupnick, Hernandez's campaign manager.
Denham also has a phone bank making calls every day and evening, Gilliard said.
Last week, the campaigns were keeping close tabs on which vote-by-mail voters had returned their ballots and which hadn't.
As of Thursday, 60,320 of Stanislaus County's 232,885 registered voters had cast their ballots. That's 26 percent. Four years ago, Stanislaus' total turnout was less than 71 percent.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.
Election Day is Tuesday; polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mail ballots must be received by Tuesday. For voters who have questions about their ballots, polling places or other subjects, here is where to find answers:
Stanislaus County: (209) 525-5200 or www.stanvote.com
San Joaquin County: (209) 468-2885 or www.sjcrov.org
Merced County: (209) 385-7541 or www.mercedelections.org
Tuolumne County: (209) 533-5570 or www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
The Bee asked its Facebook fans to share their thoughts on all the political ads filling the airwaves and mailboxes. Here's a sampling of their comments:
Tawny Rollins: I got 6 political fliers in my mailbox this morning. Waste of paper, I just throw them away. I already know who I'm voting for so I don't really need all that crap.
Maria Virginia Rolon: Ughhh. I love walking all the way to the mailbox just to find those stupid ads we use them in the bottom of the kitty litter box LOL as for the TV ads I always mute the TV during commercials so I don't hear them.
Brian Richter: Everything they say is crap anyhow it don't matter if they say it on TV or if it comes on paper in the mail it's all crap!
Shirley Rogers: Waste of paper.
I would love to see the day they tell us what they can do for the country and not what the other person didn't do. So far I don't believe most of what I read or hear. I am sure there is a better use for the money used to run for an office. Why can't those people running raise that same money to help their local area's schools?
Vickie Flores: I'm a letter carrier for the post office and I am so sick of sorting them, delivering them, etc. It seems like all the PACs and candidates have an unlimited supply of money targeted at mailing fliers alone.
I can't remember any other election in the past where there was such a prolific amount of mailings as there has been in the current election! From my view, no one reads them, they are a waste of time and resources, and a huge waste of money.
But the negative aspect is the worst I've seen in a long time, and all this mudslinging just makes them all look bad, like extremely misbehaved children!
Richard Wheeler: I think there should be some liability for making dishonest claims. Error and spin is one thing, but making things up about an opponent is another.
Also, I'm sick of unions misrepresenting themselves as generalized "workers," as if they represent all workers, when really, they only represent themselves and their greed for benefiting at the expense of the vast majority of workers who don't belong to unions.
Leroy Hewes: The ads and spots make me believe the politicians think we're a bunch of children. They think they can win us over with their catchy slogans and flashy spots.
What I want is clean data about our issues and a plan to correct them. This takes more than a 30-second spot or a moderated debate.
Each candidate should spend some of their campaign money for 1-2 hour "infomercial" and present the facts and their plan. Anything less is an insult to our intellect. I want to know how they plan to do what they say their going to do
and who is going to pay in the end.
Sandra Souza-Desimone: I am not sure who the consultants surveyed. Negative advertising reminds me of that whiny kid that no one listens to anyway. It is mean spirited, shows no integrity or intelligence. Most of our ads go straight to the recycling bin.
Cyndy Lu Hackett: The amount of money spent on such juvenile, nearly bullying negative ads on TV and print is simply disgusting, especially in this economy. It truly makes me sick. My vote is for the day that negative campaigning is illegal.
Tell us what you stand for and what makes you qualified to do the job, not empty, impractical promises and mudslinging. I'm sure their parents taught them to say something nice or else. If they can't at least have manners, why ever would I vote for them?
I also wish we could "opt out" of those ridiculous, expensive campaign mailers that wreak havoc on our carriers and clog our mailboxes. Enough!