Tempers Flare, Senate Campaign Staffers Scuffle - NBC 7 San Diego

Tempers Flare, Senate Campaign Staffers Scuffle

The battle for the 40th District Senate seat is heating up



    Two staff members from rival State Senate campaigns scuffled outside the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego

    The incident happened Friday during a news conference for Mary Salas running for the 40th District State Senate Seat.  No one was seriouly injured in the scuffle.

    Salas held the news conference to publicize campaign contributions and spending by special interests for her opponent Juan Vargas. She said the Civil Justice Association of California and other special interest lobbying groups spent nearly $700,000 on his campaign. 

    "The voters have a right to know," said Salas, "This campaign cannot be bought."

    Staff Scuffle

    [DGO] Staff Scuffle
    Two staff members from rival State Senate campaigns scuffled outside the Hall of Justice in Downtown San Diego.
    (Published Monday, May 3, 2010)

    Three staff members of Vargas' campaign heckled Salas and her supporters, and held signs showing the contributions that Salas took from special interests. 

    "There were a couple of good little shoves and we kept our cool. But something seemed to escalate," said Jim Anderson, Juan Vargas' campaign manager. 

    Video showed one of Vargas' staff pulling one of Salas' staff to the ground. Both got up and began yelling and each other. Later Sheriff's deputies stood by Vargas' staff member as the news conference continued.

    Campaign documents at the Registrar of Voters showed that a group called "Californians for Balance and Fairness in the Civil Justice System" has spent over $191,000 to support Vargas.  The group "Put California Back to Work" has spent roughly $187,000 on Vargas campaign, including payment consulting services and campaign supplies.

    But documents also show some of the same companies also spent money on Salas' campaign. That has Vargas' camp crying foul. 

    "She goes on the attack and says 'You're taking contributions.' Well she's taking contributions. She's acting very hypocritical," said Anderson.

    With the elections just 38 days away, political consultant John Dadian says there's not clear front-runner. 

    "There's been polling done by both campaigns and there's independent polling and it's neck and neck right now," said Dadian.  And he says it could get worse.  "It's the money game right now.  And in the last two weeks, you'll see not only the gloves come off but the brass knuckles come on," he said.

    Both candidates are well liked in the South Bay. Salas holds the current 79th District Assembly seat.  But Vargas held that seat from 2000 to 2006.