News Column

Assembly Hopeful Pedro Rios Defends Against Rudy Salas Ads

Oct. 24, 2012

Antonie Boessenkool

Assembly candidate Pedro Rios is defending himself in new radio spots against what he calls deceptive ads insinuating he distributed alcohol to minors as a teacher.

Rios, a Delano small-businessman and former Delano city councilman, and Rudy Salas, a current Bakersfield city councilman and staffer for former state Sen. Dean Florez, are running to represent the 32nd Assembly District -- one of the state's most competitive Assembly contests.

Rios' latest ad features Patrick Blanton, a Delano pastor who says he has known Rios for more than 10 years.

"I checked the facts, and I learned that the attack against Pedro is grossly untruthful, and worse, intended to unfairly damage the reputation of a good man," Blanton says in the ad. "What Salas is saying is wrong."

He's referring to criticism in the latest Salas ad that Rios sold alcohol to an underage person and was a teacher.

"(Salas') opponent, Pedro Rios, was a teacher, but Rios got busted and convicted for providing alcohol to minors, a disgrace," the Salas ad says.

But the Salas ad is misleading, said Matt Braman of Western Pacific Research, the political consulting firm managing Rios' campaign.

"Pedro still has his teaching credential, unlike the untruthful statement that Rios was a teacher, but got busted for selling alcohol to minors," Braman said. "Grossly misleading to voters."

Rios was working as a cashier in a Delano convenience store when he was caught selling alcohol to an underage patron. Rios pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge in 1994.

Rios was issued his teaching credential in 1998, and it expires in September 2013, according to the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Rios expressed frustration Tuesday over the Salas ad.

"'Provide' is very different than selling," Rios said. "To provide means that you intentionally give it out. So their ad is made to deceive people."

Rios said he was cited when he sold a wine cooler to one person, not "minors," as the Salas ad says. Rios said the ad makes it appear that the incident happened when he was a teacher.

"All I've been doing is to try and defend myself from a bunch of lies," he said. "I have not come up with lies about Mr. Salas."

But Bob Sanders, Salas' campaign adviser, defended Salas' latest ad.

"Not a word of that ad is not true," Sanders said.

Sanders said that juxtaposing Rios' teaching experience and his charge for selling alcohol to a minor isn't misleading.

"I don't know that anyone has come to the conclusion that the ad is deliberately misleading, except (people at) Western Pacific Research" and those they've encouraged to write to The Californian in support of Rios, Sanders said.

"Sometimes the truth is unnerving to people," he said.

Salas was unavailable for comment Tuesday, Sanders said.

"(Rios) said he was the victim of a sting," Sanders said. "That means the police had identified a problem at those stores."

Indeed, Rios has said the incident happened during a city-wide sting using undercover officers and that about half a dozen other cashiers in Delano were cited that night.

Sanders added that parts of Rios' ad are untrue, namely when Blanton says Rios is a "man of faith and courage who will ensure that the American dream of freedom and opportunity is alive and available for everyone."

Yet, Sanders said, Rios opposes the DREAM Act, which would give permanent residency to certain illegal immigrants who came to the United States as minors.

"He's against the young Latinos and Latinos who came to this country getting a path to be a permanent resident," Sanders said. "So ... that sentence in the (Rios) ad is not true."

But Rios said he hasn't opposed the DREAM Act.

"I have never mentioned the DREAM Act," Rios said. "I have said I do not want crumbs for my people," but instead "complete immigration reform."

"I have never mentioned, 'Let's deport these people,'" he said. To do that would be hypocritical, he said, because he is an immigrant to the United States.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)