Incumbent advantage is worth its weight in postage.

And Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, is aptly demonstrating that he knows how to leverage his status, although he's using it to run for an office other than the one he holds.

Termed out of the Legislature and faced with poor election prospects to the state Senate or Congress, Houston is running June 3 against his former aide and incumbent Contra Costa County District 3 Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho.

Houston recently mailed out to his Assembly constituents, at taxpayer expense, at least four, color fold-out brochures.

One promotes the lawmaker's bill that would ease inequities in the amount of property taxes the state returns to counties. He touts his Internet predator bill in a second mailer.

A third features an education survey. He also calls for the construction of water storage facilities, such as the expansion of Los Vaqueros Reservoir.

None mention Houston's supervisor race — that would be a violation of state law barring the use of public money for campaigns. But they increase his profile and the chance that voters will see his name on their local ballot and remember him.

Piepho supporters call the mailers an abuse of taxpayers' money.

But it's a perfectly legal practice subject to a few rules.

The state Assembly imposes on its members a 60-day blackout period for mass mailings prior to each election. The Assembly Rules Committee oversees all publicly funded mass mailings and reviews the content for compliance with the law.

"I guarantee you that nothing goes out of here during the blackout period," said Rules Committee Chief Administrator Jon Waldie.

The cut-off was April 4 but if you found one of the brochures in your mailbox after that date, it's not a violation. It can take a few days or even a week for bulk mail processing companies to do their work.

The ban does not include e-mail blasts, though.

Houston has been sending out a series of e-mail messages with embedded videos that tout his commitment to public safety.

He flirted with the line when he mentioned his supervisor candidacy in the "Houston Quarterly," a newsletter put out by his family business, Valley Capital Realty & Mortgage.

But he doesn't ask anyone to vote for him, so he probably won't have to declare the newsletter costs on his next campaign finance report.

The more interesting twist involves a Houston-financed mailer to promote a parcel tax measure in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which is in District 3.

Measure D asks voters to hike an existing parcel tax from $90 a year to $166. The proceeds would fund school libraries, class size reduction, counselors, and math and science laboratories.

Houston used leftover cash in his state Board of Equalization campaign account to pay for the flier, which sports the headline, "A Special Message from Guy Houston."

This from the same guy who signed the Americans For Tax Reform pledge to never vote for new taxes. Now, that's priceless.

GOT POLITICS? Read Inside Politics for the latest happenings at www.ibabuzz.com/insidepolitics:

  • Lamorinda Democratic Club President Terry Leach's Web post about the effects of talk-show host Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" goes viral and even nets her a mention on his radio show.

  • Who needs "Dallas" reruns? Contra Costa Community College Trustee John T. Nejedly, eldest son of the late state Sen. John A. Nejedly, has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to invalidate his father's decision to disinherit him. He blames his siblings, Contra Costa Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho and Central Contra Costa Sanitary District member James Nejedly.

    AND FINALLY. "Cut and paste" is not our friend.

    Contra Costa supervisor write-in candidate Steve Thomas handed out a flier at last week's county budget hearing that declared, "We can do better! That's why I'm running for Assembly!"

    Oops.

    The Danville union electrician was running for the state Assembly but he dropped out. (Recycling one's campaign literature is commendable but it requires a bit of editing.)

    Thomas jumped into the supervisor game as a write-in after he read the candidate list and saw no Democrat in the race.

    Yes, yes, it's a nonpartisan seat but Piepho and Houston are Republicans. Both parties view local elected officials as members of their farm teams and they fiercely promote them.

    Thomas also touted on his flier the Democratic Party's endorsement, a nod he wrangled from the Contra Costa Central Committee.

    Unfortunately for Thomas, state Sen. Tom Torlakson of Antioch, one of the county's most prominent and popular Democrats, didn't get the memo: He endorsed Piepho and seems highly unlikely to change his mind.

    Lisa Vorderbrueggen covers politics. Reach her at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com or www.ibabuzz.com/insidepolitics.