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."

Combs said what troubled her most was the suggestion that she hadn't been honest with the Democratic Central Committee.

"Over the years I have devoted hundreds of hours working for Democratic candidates and the party organization. I'm proud to have the party's endorsement," she said.

"For me, the story is ridiculous and over," she added.

Terry Price, Combs' campaign consultant, said switching party affiliations is not normally an issue in local nonpartisan political races, but said it does come up from time to time.

In 2002, during Santa Rosa City Councilman Mike Martini's failed bid to unseat Rep. Lynn Woolsey in the Democratic primary race, some Republicans switched affiliations to vote for Martini. Woosley, who called Martini a closet Republican, trounced him with 81 percent of the vote.

Price also noted that Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares, currently a Democrat, wrote on a county voter registration form in 2001 that he had previously been registered as a Republican. Olivares did not return a call for comment.

And Olivares' campaign consultant, Herb Williams, was a longtime Republican who switched parties in 2002, in part to vote for Martini, but also to avoid questions about Republican positions on gay rights and women's rights with which he disagrees, he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or OnTwitter @citybeater.