Out-of-towners slinging mud in Turlock?

The mudslinging has started in the Turlock City Council race, but is it being thrown all the way from Orange County?

An automated phone message, which claims to be paid for by San Juan Capistrano-based Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods, has been directed at Turlock voters, accusing candidate Mary Jackson of currying favor with special interests.

Jackson, a Merced College journalism instructor, said she was shocked by the call but vowed to keep her campaign civil.

"It's a new low, I think, for a local race in Turlock," she said. "It's more of a distraction than anything. My only special interest is the citizens of Turlock."

Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods' treasurer, James Lacy, said he was familiar with the Turlock candidates but denied involvement.

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," Lacy said when asked about the calls. He said his organization has not "received any funds nor expended any funds nor taken any obligation to help any candidates" mentioned in the messages.

Some voters have received a second automated call "paid for by Taxpayers for Safe Neighborhoods," which is not registered on the California secretary of state's Web site.

The call asks voters to support Amy Bublak and incumbent Kurt Vander Weide, "the only candidates endorsed by Turlock's police and firefighters, Sheriff Adam Christianson and the Turlock Chamber of Commerce."

The voice on the message mispronounces Christianson's name as Chris-tee ann-sen.

Councilman Vander Weide said supporters have called him after receiving the automated message, asking just who Taxpayers for Safe Neighborhoods are.

"I have no idea who they are, either," he said with a laugh.

Colleen C. Bill, 78, was one of the voters who received the call slamming Jackson. Bill said the call made her "furious" because it was a broad attack without providing facts to back it up.

"I've been through a lot of Turlock politics and I've never seen anything like this before," she said. "I think it's childish and dirty."

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.