REGION — The race for the 76th District in the California Assembly is already becoming heated.
Carlsbad Republican challenger Melanie Burkholder’s candidate statement designation was challenged by Caitlin MacMillen, a primary care physician at the University of California San Diego, regarding Burkholder’s declaration of being a “doctor.”
On Dec. 26, 2019, a judge in Sacramento Superior Court ruled Burkholder misrepresented herself as a medical doctor. As a result, Burkholder’s candidate statement will list her as business owner even though she will continue to use the doctor (she holds a doctorate in Christian counseling) designation in campaign material, according to her campaign consultant Duane Dichiara.
Derek Humphrey, a campaign consultant for incumbent Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), slammed Burkholder, saying she “purchased” a doctorate from an unaccredited institution and lied to voters about her qualifications.
“It’s somebody who has a $7,000 degree for a ballot designation is sort of misleading,” Humphrey said. “This is a woman who has gone on TV and talked about vaccinations and communicable diseases and she is referred to as doctor. There is an implication that she is a medical doctor and that’s simply not the case.”
Burkholder earned her degree in Christian counseling from the International Institute of Christian Counselors in 2016. Humphrey, along with the San Diego County Medical Society, took aim at the unaccredited institution and Burkholder identifying as a doctor.
Dichiara said the suit was a “sham,” noting the California Secretary of State and Registrar of Voters approved Burkholder’s designation. He said Horvath’s campaign is nervous about the election saying Horvath won on a fluke in 2018 after she defeated fellow Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Oceanside.
“We checked with them first,” Dichiara said of the state and ROV. “They thought it was fine and then it’s not, so, well what are you supposed to do? It’s probably the Democratic Party doing it. There is almost no reason to do this. She won on a fluke after all that Phil Graham stuff.”
Graham, a Republican, was falsely accused of sexual misconduct in 2018; lost the primary; and Kenneth Moser was fined nearly $10 million by the Federal Communications Commission for 47,610 unlawful “spoofed” robocalls containing false statements about Graham, a violation under the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Humphrey said the San Diego County Medical Society released a strongly worded statement opposing Burkholder’s self-description saying there is no jurisdiction in the country where she could identify as a medical doctor.
According to numerous political insiders, challenging campaign statements is common and used to bleed money, time and other resources of an opponent.
In fact, the Kaufman Legal Group, which filed the suit on behalf of MacMillen against Burkholder, also filed suit against Oceanside Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2018. She won the primary ahead of Horvath, but Warren told the San Diego Reader in 2018 the suit was orchestrated to take away her time and money.
MacMillen denied a request for an interview through a spokesman at UCSD.
“This one was a pretty egregious example and justified in its challenge,” Humphrey said. “I don’t think there is any connection between the two.”
The Kaufman Legal Group represents a long list of major Democratic politicians and special interests including U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, numerous unions and the California Democratic Party.
Editors Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote from Duane Dichiara to Derek Humphrey. The quote in question: “We checked with them first,” Dichiara said of the state and ROV. “They thought it was fine and then it’s not, so, well what are you supposed to do? It’s probably the Democratic Party doing it. There is almost no reason to do this. She won on a fluke after all that Phil Graham stuff.” An earlier version of this story also stated that Derek Humphrey said Horvath’s campaign had nothing to do with either lawsuit mentioned in the story. Humphrey disputed this, saying that the lawsuits were simply not filed by their campaign. The Coast News regrets the errors and confusion.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.