Teresa Alvarado, left; Cindy Chavez
Teresa Alvarado, left; Cindy Chavez

SAN JOSE -- The Santa Clara County Democratic Party, which is backing labor leader Cindy Chavez for county supervisor, has filed a complaint with the state's political watchdog commission alleging Chavez opponent Teresa Alvarado's campaign illegally coordinated with two political groups.

Chavez and Alvarado are competing in a July 30 runoff for the seat vacated by former Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.

Under state campaign law, it is illegal for a candidate to coordinate with independent campaign committees.

The June 26 complaint signed by Steve Preminger, chair of the county's Democratic Central Committee, accuses Alvarado and her new political consultant Jim Gonzalez of meeting June 19 with members of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee to discuss campaign strategy.

Members of the PAC have also donated to another group, an independent expenditure committee called the Community for Accountability, Opposing Cindy Chavez for Supervisor 2013, which is also named in the complaint.

Among other details Preminger said were brought up with the chamber PAC were Alvarado's campaign's plans to target reliable voters, absentee voters and Vietnamese voters in the district through campaign mail, and the timing of the direct mail plan.

The complaint sent to the state's Fair Political Practices Commission asks the agency to "stop the illegally coordinated expenditures before they are made," and investigate whether similar actions with the two groups occurred leading up to the June 4 primary.


Advertisement

Gonzalez called the complaint a "cynical attempt ... to subvert and chill my First Amendment right to discuss the candidacy of Teresa Alvarado with an endorsing organization," in this case the Chamber PAC.

"There was no agreement, no consultation and no discussion, so therefore there is no coordination," he said. "I gave a speech with generally known facts and statements. Period."

Gary Winuk, chief of the FPPC's enforcement division, said his agency has 14 days to decide whether or not it will investigate the matter.

The complaint follows one filed by Alvarado's campaign in May with the FPPC, which the commission ultimately dismissed. That complaint alleged Chavez's campaign mailers matched mailers paid for by political committees of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council (which Chavez led until this year) and the county's Democratic Central Committee.

Alvarado's campaign said that showed collusion between Chavez's campaign and independent political committees. But Chavez's camp insisted the Labor Council and Democratic Party pieces were "member communications" sent only to their members, which is allowed. The FPPC agreed.

Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 275-0140.