Merced County Times Newspaper
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Local elections under clouds of controversy

Here is a picture sent to the Times that shows an unendorsed flier with misleading information about the Delray Shelton re-election campaign in Merced. It was reportedly left on doorsteps in Shelton's district in north Merced. The Times is releasing the image here without showing the wording on it.
Here is a picture sent to the Times that shows an unendorsed flier with misleading information about the Delray Shelton re-election campaign in Merced. It was reportedly left on doorsteps in Shelton’s district in north Merced. The Times is releasing the image here without showing the wording on it.         (BELOW): A video obtained by the Times of a person wearing a protective mask and hat is leaving a flier on a doorstep. The video was reportedly taken from a door cam at a residence in north Merced. The video was also allegedly recorded around the same time an unendorsed flier with misleading information was left on doorsteps in the same area.
















By Jonathan Whitaker

Errors on ballots that were sent out.

A misleading and illegal campaign flier that is circulated.

Candidate signs allegedly being torn down, or even shot at with pellets.

Lots of money being aimed at one particular north Merced district.

And a transparent redistricting process that produced new election boundaries, but not-so-clear communication for the very next vote.

This year’s local city elections are being marked by controversy, confusion and contentiousness.

One egregious example of a dishonest campaign tactic happened in the neighborhoods of District 6, a representative area in northern Merced where two candidates, incumbent Delray Shelton and challenger Fue Xiong, are vying for a seat on the Merced City Council.

A misleading and illegal campaign flier was distributed using a photo of Shelton and his campaign logo colors, but with no disclaimer or official source listed. Needless to say, it was not intended to support the Shelton campaign.

“It was a very underhanded political campaign tactic in order to mislead voters and charter favor for my opponent,” Shelton told the Times when asked about it in a recent interview. “It’s extremely disheartening and unfortunate that they would shoot so low as to mislead the electorate. People should have quality, accurate and timely information to make an educated vote.”

Shelton said he remains concentrated on “local issues that affect residents” and “crossing the finish line successfully.”

“There has been some very public swipes made at me, and in the midst of this, I have remained still. Some of the best advice I have received, and I try to live by, is in the midst of adversity, when the storms of life rage, be still. I have done nothing in return. So, one of the things I have really struggled with is that I have not responded to the very public, less than accurate, barbaric and demonstrative swipes.”

Shelton said he had no idea who was distributing the fliers, but he was aware of a door cam video that was taken in the district at the same time the fliers started appearing on doorsteps. In the video, Shelton says it’s clear someone wearing a protective mask and hat is leaving the fliers on doorsteps.

“I couldn’t imagine my opponent or other people associated with his campaign would not know the source of it. This is a very strategic tactic that was utilized to discredit and confuse the voters.”

The Times has received a copy of the video with information that the person distributing the flier is associated with the Xiong campaign — an assertion Xiong denies.

“We didn’t have anything to do with that flier,” Xiong told the Times. “I don’t know who is doing this.”

However, Xiong does have complaints of his own.

“There has been a lot of intimidation,” he said. “Our campaign yard signs are being taken down — even the big ones. It’s not necessarily easy to take these down. We spike them into the ground and somebody took the effort to bend the posts. This is last minute intimation. … Also, somebody shot a pellet gun at a sign that was in front of a house. It really puts people’s safety in jeopardy. This type of behavior is unacceptable.”

A few supporters of Xiong also made public statements during the Merced City Council meeting in early October about a man allegedly harassing a home owner in District 6 who had a Xiong sign in her lawn.

Jennifer McQueen, the executive director of the Merced Pride Center, told the council the man stood on the sidewalk in front of her home and called her a communist in front of her children who were also there. She said she felt violated and harassed.

The Times later contacted the man who was identified as Rick Wendling, a local resident who often comments about issues during local government meetings.

Wendling told the Times he was canvassing the neighborhood as an unpaid citizen volunteer attempting to get relevant information out about the District 6 race and other local issues. He said he retreated after he was “screamed at with vitriol” to get away from her property. He added that she was the bully for attacking him with comments at the City Council meeting.

Meanwhile, campaign funding continues to pour into the District 6 race. Both candidates have thousands of dollars in campaign funding at their disposal — though Xiong is being criticized for the amount of donations that have come in from people who live outside the community to support his re-election, and Shelton is being blasted for being supported by “rich Mercedians.”

Says Xiong, “PowerCalifornia (based in Los Angeles) is an organization that helps empower minorities to run for political office and get involved. I see it as a support for our minority communities. I would contrast this with how our opponent, Delray Shelton, is being funded by a lot of big dollars in Merced, and more specifically a lot of the wealthiest families in Merced.”

On top of the campaign fights, of course, District 6 candidates, along with District 4 candidates, are dealing with the highly-publicized fact that county election officials sent out ballots to certain precincts with the wrong council races listed.

It seems the problems started with officials getting information from maps that were not updated during the recent redistricting process that went on throughout the county.

It seems the confusion is not subsiding and it also affects other areas.

Before the Times press deadline this week, a candidate for a seat on the Atwater City Council told the Times he wasted a week of door-to-door campaigning because he was following an outdated district map that was listed as “current” on one page of the City of Atwater website. It still had not been corrected as of Monday of this week.

“I must of knocked on 150 doors of voters who I found out later were not in the district I’m running for,” James Murphy told the Times.

Stay tuned. There’s less than three weeks left until Election Day!

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