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Congressional candidate Norman Solomon says he stands by his campaign mailer critical of opponent Stacey Lawson, rejecting assertions that the two full-color fliers are hit pieces.

"What's important is that they were factual," Solomon said Thursday.

<NO1><NO>Lawson, a San Rafael businesswoman and political newcomer, fired back. <NO1><NO>

"If my opponents want to resort to distortions and lies then that is their choice," she said. "Only people in the lead get attacked and only those who are trailing attack."

Lawson declined to characterize Solomon's fliers, saying she would "leave that to others."

One of the mailers, citing Lawson's acknowledged failure to vote in eight of 12 elections from 2003-08, juxtaposes pictures of Lawson with former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and the fictional Pinocchio.

<NO1><NO>Whitman, a Republican who lost the 2010 gubernatorial race to Jerry Brown, had failed to vote for 28 years during her career as a business executive. She also spent $144 million of her own money on her campaign.

Lawson and Solomon are two of the 12 candidates in a wide-open race for the North Coast congressional seat, vacant due to Petaluma Rep. Lynn Woolsey's retirement.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is widely regarded as the frontrunner in Tuesday's primary election that will send the two top vote-getters to a November runoff.

Solomon said he considers himself and Lawson as the leading contenders for second place.

A candidate's voting record is a legitimate issue, said Andy Merrifield, a Sonoma State University political science professor.

But linking Lawson to Whitman, who has "extraordinarily high negatives among Democratic North Coast voters," creates a "visceral impact" that qualifies the flier as a "hit piece," Merrifield said.

Political partisans, including Lawson supporters, had a stronger reaction.

"Shame on Solomon," said Kara Mills, vice chairwoman of the Sonoma County Young Democrats, a group that endorsed Lawson. "We don't need negative campaigns."

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, documentary filmmaker and wife of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson, said: "It is always a disappointment when desperate candidates try to salvage their campaigns with smear tactics."

Newsom has endorsed Lawson.

<NO1><NO>Larry Fritzlan, a Mill Valley therapist also running for the congressional seat, said that negative campaigning is part of the reason "why 90 percent of us distrust Congress."

<NO1><NO>Solomon, a West Marin activist and author well known in progressive circles, disputed critics who said the mailers represented a lapse in his principles.

"A progressive principle is that we do not accept multi-millionaires buying elections," he said.

Lawson, who joined the race months after Solomon and Huffman, made a splash by raising more than $900,000, including a $100,000 loan to her campaign.

If not for her own wealth and ability to secure donations from wealthy friends, Lawson "would be a non-factor in this race," Solomon said.

He ranks third in campaign fund-raising with $630,000, behind Lawson and Huffman, the leader with $1 million.

Merrifield said that Lawson's fresh face, liberal politics and money have boosted her from dark horse to contender, with as much name recognition as Solomon.

Campaigns "go negative," he said, because candidates and political consultants agree that "it works more often than it doesn't."

Solomon declined to say whether any similar mailers will be sent prior to Tuesday's election, calling it a matter of confidential "campaign strategy."

California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it

OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.

Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”

“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”

Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.

Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.

Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”

The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.

California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”

Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.

“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”

—Associated Press


Find more in-depth cannabis news, culture and politics at EmeraldReport.com, authoritative marijuana coverage from the PD.

His other four mailers made no mention of Lawson, he said.

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