Democrat Robert Robuck, who is challenging Pima County Supervisor Ramon Valadez in the Sept. 2 primary, is learning some new lessons when it comes to political mudslinging—namely, when you swing that first mud pie, be prepared for a return hit.
That’s what happened when Dan Eckstrom approached Walt Pearson a couple of weeks ago to show him a campaign mailer Robuck sent out earlier this month.
Pearson is president of Wholesale Lithographers, a union print shop that prints a good portion of election materials each year for Democratic candidates. For Democrats, labor support remains of high importance and showing your support through a union shop can be important for certain constituents.
A union bug always has a way to identify what shop it’s from and sometimes includes the city and state where the print shop is located, as well as a number. In Tucson there are two union shops in town, Wholesale Lithographers and Pueblo Printing (owned by Supervisor Richard Elias’ father). Wholesale’s number, included on its bug, is 15.
When Valadez received the mailer, he noticed the quality wasn’t that great and the union bug didn’t show up properly. What showed up clearly, however, was the number 15 identifying it as Pearson’s bug.
Pearson says he knew as soon as Eckstrom showed him the flyer that it wasn’t his work and that the bug was considered counterfeit. The mailing permit provided the information on who printed and mailed the campaign mailer—non-union Innovative Mailing Systems, owned by Rumaldo Moreno.
The mailing house could be forced to pay a fine. Pearson says he understands that it could be three times what they made on the four-color project. Pearson called the Communications Workers of America #7026—the local union that licenses print shops in Tucson—and he understands the Pima County Democratic Party has been called, too.
“It’s just not wise to put something like this out because everyone is pretty sensitive to it,” Pearson says. He called Moreno about the mailing and Moreno told him he didn’t know the bug was attached to the file going out to a printer in California.
Robuck likens the mess to campaign mudslinging coming from Valadez.
Robuck also says it was a mistake. He says the graphic designer working for his campaign took the artwork for printing and mailing, but forgot she had put the union bug on the mailer. Robuck says Moreno has apologized to Pearson for the mistake.
“This is a total misunderstanding,” Robuck contends. “Look, it was a mistake. Why would we give our opponent something to hammer us with? …Ramon is saying I did it on purpose. It’s mudslinging.”
Valadez, however, has had his share of attacks from Robuck, too—complaints about South Tucson Mayor Jennifer Eckstrom working in Valadez’s office, his alleged lack of response to constituent concerns and a lack of interest in Rosemont mine meetings.
Moreno, the mailing house owner caught in the middle, shares Robuck’s sentiment.
“I have never come across this before, ever,” Moreno says. “It’s never been an issue. I didn’t review the art work. Usually I look for an address and specifications, like what kind of paper they want to use. I understand why Walt is mad. I understand they pay a lot of money to be able to be a union printer. On the other hand it’s important to realize that no malice was intended or an attempt to deceive anyone.”
The use of union bugs is common information doled out a new candidate classes given by the Pima County Democratic Party. Robuck says he never a got a chance to go to one of those classes.