Now that Suzette Valladares has officially left the congressional race to challenge Christy Smith in the 38th Assembly district, she has issues to address; such as owing tens of thousands of dollars and not currently living in the district.
According to two sources with knowledge of the campaign, but not authorized to speak, Valladares hasn’t paid staff, many of whom have quit because they were under the impression she was going to bring them to the Assembly race and then didn’t. Now, they are contemplating suing. One source said she owes at least $90,000, including about $25,000 to one vendor.
Another vendor briefly put on her website, “Suzette Valladares doesn’t pay her bills. She owes our small business $17,129.80. Don’t vote for her.” That post, which appeared on Rob Pyers’ Twitter feed on August 29th with the words, “…providing a fresh reminder not to stiff the vendors with the keys to your online accounts,” has since been taken down.
As of Wednesday, Valladares’ website currently was a single screen that said, “We’ll be back soon!”
Valladares did not return numerous calls for comment. Her current campaign consultant, Tim Rosales, referred questions to the Federal Election Commission website, which lists all the monies a candidate takes in and spends. The current FEC file on Valladares shows she took in $20,195.08 and spent $10,991.33, meaning she has $9,203.75 to carry over to her Assembly race. The next report is due September 30th.
Of the listed disbursements, none are to any campaign staff, unlike Rep. Katie Hill’s FEC page, which lists $6,500 in payments to staffers on the first page alone.
One source said that by moving the monies over, it will become more challenging for people to recover any monies they believe they have coming to them because they have to go after Valladares’ congressional campaign funds, not her Assembly funds. They might try and sue to prevent the funds from being transferred, but even if they are successful, there isn’t enough to go after.
Joe Messina, the communications director for the local Republican Party, didn’t sound concerned about the monies Valladares owes.
“Every candidate gets into debt. Every one of them overextends at different points in time during their candidacies,” Messina said. “It all eventually gets paid, so it’s not that alarming. If it was $117,000, yes, it’d be alarming.”
Another issue is Valladares’ address. She has told several media outlets, including the Gazette, that she lives in Acton, but sources say her real address is on Hillside Drive in Palmdale, which is in the 36th district, currently held by Republican Tom Lackey.
However, her residency doesn’t automatically disqualify Valladares. In 2000, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a state cannot add residency requirements beyond what’s in the U.S. Constitution, and a candidate need only live in the area by Election Day. The California primary is March 3rd.
Although that ruling referred to federal races, the Los Angeles Times reported that California’s law actually requires congressional candidates to live in the district where they are running, but that rule is not enforced.
One source said the reasons Valladares switched races included that she trailed in fundraising and that Smith had no Republican opposition once Dante Acosta, whom she defeated and was expected to run again, moved to Texas.
Of the other candidates for Congress, only Mark Cripe had a comment.
“I like Suzette. I completely understand that decision,” Cripe said. “We need good people in the state Assembly. I’m going to miss her in this race. She brought some energy to this race. I would endorse her in a second.”
There might be other candidates that emerges, and this weekend’s state party convention in Indian Wells is the place for that to happen. But for now, Messina said, “It’s great that we have a candidate that’s willing to put her hat in the ring.”