Santa Rosa council candidate explains GOP vote

Santa Rosa City Council Candidate Julie Combs sought Wednesday to explain why she voted in a Republican primary in Ohio when she lived there in 2006.

The neighborhood activist, who is endorsed by the Sonoma County Democratic Central Committee, said in a written statement that she and thousands of other Democratic activists voted in the open Republican primary in an effort to defeat a Republican gubernatorial candidate who "held many extreme, right-wing positions."

That candidate, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, won the Republican primary, but lost in the general election to Democrat Ted Strickland, who served until his defeat last year.

Combs said she felt compelled to explain the vote after an anonymous blogger questioned her claims of being a lifelong Democrat by noting that Ohio state records listed her party affiliation as Republican in 2006.

"I am not now, nor have I ever been a Republican," Combs said.

When she voted in the open primary, she was not required to state her party affiliation. But she was required to select either a Democratic or Republican ballot, and that choice caused the county registrar of voters to list her party affiliation that year as Republican, she said.

She called the whole affair a dirty campaign trick.

"Some may disagree with this activist voting strategy, but to say that I compromised my principles, or that I have misrepresented my party affiliation on the Sonoma County Democratic Party's application for endorsement is a complete fabrication and devious attempt to damage my campaign for City Council," Combs wrote.

Stephen Gale, chairman of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, said the blog is clearly the work of a political partisan and urged the 40 members of the central committee to ignore it.

"It's a joke," Gale said. "It's a non-issue."

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