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Mystery mailer riles Senate race

A mailer blasting Oregon Senate District 3 candidate Curt Ankerberg has been hitting Republican mailboxes, and local political leaders are scratching their heads over who sent it out.

The mailer bolsters its case by using an article from the Mail Tribune about Ankerberg’s tax fraud issues as well as a Mail Tribune editorial urging Ankerberg to withdraw from the race.

“We deserve better than Curt Ankerberg,” the mailer states in large letters.

Although the Mail Tribune’s name appears prominently on the mailer, the newspaper had nothing to do with it and didn’t authorize the use of the article and editorial. The name of the sender was not included on the mailer, and the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office said political action committees aren’t required to place their names on mailers.

Other local officials say they don’t think the mailer was produced locally.

“I can tell you with 100 percentage assurance that Jackson County Republican Party had nothing to do with it,” said Steve Richie, vice chairman of the local Republicans and a former Senate District 3 candidate. “I don’t know who put it out.”

He said the mailer, printed in color on letter-sized heavy paper, was also sent to his Medford house.

“It’s disappointing that this went out,” he said. “It’s sad when primaries turn negative.”

Jessica Gomez, Ankerberg’s Republican opponent in the May 15 primary, said she heard about the mailer when she got a text from her campaign staff that it had been appearing in mailboxes over the past week.

“That’s just not something our campaign would do,” she said. “We’re going to run a positive campaign on issues.”

Gomez said she suspects it’s a mailer coming out of Salem and is something she wouldn’t support in the primary or general election.

“It’s just not healthy for our community,” she said. “This is a symptom of what’s wrong with politics. I’m really disappointed to see something like that.”

Ankerberg, who doesn’t want the Mail Tribune contacting him about any stories, responded to a Facebook discussion about the mailer: “It’s either the Gomez campaign, or else the state Senate Republican committee, which is owned and controlled by lobbyists.”

Sen. Alan DeBoer, who has decided not to run for another term and has thrown his support behind Gomez, said he also received the mailer at his home in Ashland.

“I was really upset with it, and so was Jessica,” he said. “We’re trying to dig into it and stop it.”

He said he is bothered that the mailer has no return address and doesn’t indicate who is behind it.

Senate leadership has indicated that it doesn’t know anything about the mailer, DeBoer said.

He said the mailer is obviously an effort by some individual or group to get Gomez elected, but DeBoer said the Gomez campaign wants nothing to do with this kind of negativity.

“She doesn’t need anyone disparaging her opponent,” DeBoer said.

To stop this in the future, DeBoer said he would like to support legislation that would require listing the organization behind the mailer as well as the top four contributors.

“Right now we have a situation where we have people hiding behind no return address,” he said.

Medford Republican Dennis Gates said that when he received the mailer, he was initially persuaded to vote for Ankerberg.

“It sounded like a Democrat thing, putting him down from their side,” he said.

Gates and his wife filled out their ballots for Ankerberg, he said.

The next morning, Gates said he woke up and realized that the mailer was probably not sent out by Democrats because it was the primary.

“It made me question who was doing it, and what was the intent,” he said.

As a result, Gates and his wife headed down to the Jackson County Elections Center and asked for another ballot so they could change their vote.

They ended up voting for Gomez.

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said Gates’ situation is the only one she’s encountered in regard to this mailer.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Mystery mailer riles Senate race