BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – If you’re as baffled by those slate mailers that have District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer and Donny Youngblood on the same page as Gov. Gavin Newsom, you’re not alone. A few Kern County voters have expressed confusion over that as well.

Zimmer and Youngblood have been vocal critics of the liberal California chief executive since day one, yet here they are – along with five other Kern County candidates for nonpartisan office – smiling like one big happy family. What’s going on here?

Welcome to the world of the slate mailer, where a candidate – or a candidate’s campaign consultant – can link figurative arms with any national figure they believe could yield positive results on election day, regardless of party affiliation. 

In this case, Cathy Abernathy of Western Pacific Research – the firm that helped boost Kevin McCarthy to power – purchased a local version of the mailer from an outfit called Democratic Voters Choice. Featured along with Youngblood and Zimmer  – both conservative, and both running unopposed – are five Abernathy clients: Third district Supervisor candidate Jeff Flores, Assessor candidate Todd Reeves, County Clerk candidate Mark McKenzie and Superior Court judge candidates Michael Caves and Mark Smith.

Youngblood and Zimmer didn’t seem pleased with the association when KGET asked them about it last week. 

The sheriff said he didn’t pay, approve or know about it. “I’m offended!” he said in a text message. The DA said she didn’t know or approve either. 

KGET asked Reeves, McKenzie and Flores for comment. Flores responded:

“My campaign buys as many slate mailers as we can afford for voter contact. This includes voters of all categories including Republicans, Democrats, seniors, Hispanics, women, law enforcement, taxpayers, many categories. Especially in non partisan races, it is fundamental that I communicate with all groups as to why I am the best candidate to represent the 3rd District.”

Reeves said much the same thing – slates like this allow him to share his message with Democrats.

“My candidacy appears on many slate mailers,” Reeves wrote in a statement to KGET. “It’s one way to get your message to voters for less cost as the candidates all split the cost of the mailer.  In this case, of course,  it was an opportunity to share my name, photo and brief message with Democrat voters, which of course I have been doing the entire campaign. And like any group  endorsement advertiser, an endorsement about my candidacy may or may not be shared by others on the same mailer and certainly whoever the  advertising agency puts on the mailer is not made known to me in advance. The campaign firm I use has a several decades long relationship with this advertising company, and they made the arrangements and billed me a share of the cost.”

But in a pair of Facebook posts Bakersfield attorney Joel Andreesen said the slates are misleading because they lead voters to think the local candidates are in some way supported by the governor and others pictured on the mailer. He indicated he intended to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Cathy Abernathy of Western Pacific Research said the mailer sends no misleading messages.

“Other firms in town have the same (type of) relationships with other slate advertisers,” she wrote in a statement, “but (critics) are faking outrage because this mailer and others have mailed (candidate slates) into Kern and other counties for decades! The real story out there is Democrat loyalty is weak nationwide because of inflation, gas prices, crime, etc. That’s why local Democrats are nervous.”

There’s a lot for voters to sort out in this election, and not just in the mail. One of the more controversial is this TV ad, funded by a PAC with close ties to McCarthy, that portrays fellow Republican Chris Mathys, a vocal Trump supporter, as dangerously liberal – on some pretty dubious grounds. 

The ad claims Mathys – who is challenging Republican incumbent David Valadao in the 20th Congressional District – voted years ago as a Fresno city councilman to deny funding to a gang intervention group.

But, in fact, Mathys simply voted along with six of seven council members to establish or increase funding to three gang intervention charities and decrease funding to two other charities. 

The ad also claims Mathys “went to bat” for a convicted rapist, arranging housing and health care – and the man later molested an underage girl. But, in fact, Mathys responded to the complaints of more than 100 of the man’s neighbors that he be relocated, contacting a nonprofit group that agreed to provide him with 24-hour care and counseling and – even though he was on neither probation nor parole – find housing for him outside of the city.

It’s clearly election season – that time of year when there’s more than a little head scratching going on.