There’s a new wrinkle in the story about the dramatic accusations in the 3rd District supervisor’s race.
The man behind one of the most aggressive video advertisements against Supervisor Mike Maggard — an ad attributed to a previously faceless political action committee — is explaining the reasons his group is going after the supervisor.
And T.J. Esposito also is denying that he coordinated the attacks with Supervisor Leticia Perez, her husband Fernando Jara and Maggard’s opponent, Bakersfield city firefighter Jeff Heinle.
Last week, Maggard accused Perez and Jara of using support from pro-marijuana groups, including Esposito’s Americans for Safe Neighborhoods, to damage Maggard and help Heinle.
They denied being involved in the ads and being involved in their friend Heinle’s campaign.
Heinle denied being behind the ads.
And Riverside marijuana attorney Ben Eilenberg, who launched a separate series of other ads against Maggard, claimed to be acting independently of any other group.
This week, Esposito, a bail bond representative and medical marijuana advocate who made a splash for his dramatics during his run for Bakersfield mayor in 2016, said he was behind the Americans for Safe Neighborhoods ads against Maggard.
The most notable ad was a video, set to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," bashing Maggard for his beach house, high-end cars, public pensions and attendance record in office.
Esposito said Maggard angered many in the medical marijuana community when he described medical marijuana patients urinating, defecating and fornicating outside dispensaries to justify a ban passed by supervisors on the commercial cultivation, processing, distribution and sales of cannabis.
Maggard could have just voted to ban, but he took it upon himself to bash the elderly, veterans and sick people, Esposito said.
So he struck back.
Marijuana regulation is a public safety issue, Esposito said, and without it a criminal culture will surround the community. That is what the Safe Neighborhood PAC is up to, too.
“Trust me we’re not stopping there. We want regulation. We need it as a community,” he said.
So did Esposito coordinate those attacks with Perez and Jara or Heinle?
He said he didn’t.
“I’ve never met him,” Esposito said about Heinle. “Before we even knew he was running or who he was, we were hitting Maggard.”
While he knows Perez and Jara, he said, the attack ads weren’t coordinated with them.
Maggard said the revelation of Esposito’s involvement hasn’t changed his mind about who he thinks is behind the attacks.
“I stand by the concerns that I expressed. I’m being attacked by marijuana interests and whether or not those attacks persist, I will not stop representing the concerns expressed to me by the consitutents of the 3rd District,” Maggard said. “Whatever the consequence I’m going to speak up for my constituents.”
Going forward he hopes to focus more on the positive aspects of his own service.
“I have a very positive story to tell about what we’ve accomplished for the citizens of the 3rd District and what we are continuing to do,” Maggard said.
On Tuesday, Maggard also disclosed that his campaign is being represented, in part, by consultant Kim Schaefer.
She was hired as a consultant to do some website development and fundraising for Maggard, he said.
But Schaefer also is working for Kern Citizens for Patient Rights, a pro-medicinal cannabis group that is preparing an initiative to overturn a City of Bakersfield ban on marijuana on the November ballot.
The group is organized by attorney Phil Ganong.
“I ended up going to work for them in the fall of last year,” Schaefer said. “They only paid me one time. They gave me $3,000.”
But she is continuing to help, she said, because there is a need for medical marijuana.
“We’re talking about medical cannabis for patients and they need help,” she said.
Schaefer said she sees no conflict between her work for Maggard at the county level and her work for Kern Citizens at the city level.
“It’s purely at the city level. It’s purely at the medicinal level,” she said. “They’re completely separate from each other. I’ve run a lot of campaigns. I don’t tell my clients what to do with their policy.”
Maggard said he wasn’t aware of the connection.
“I have no idea who Kim’s private clients are,” he said.