By Tommy A. Purvis
Assembly candidate Russ Warner takes a political cheap shot at the competition—and at medical marijuana!
The good name of medical cannabis is being impugned in the highly competitive and increasingly contentious race for the open seat in the newly drawn 40th Assembly District, which covers portions of Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga.
Russ Warner—the perennial west end candidate that was able to gain name recognition in back-to-back defeats to retiring Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas)—issued a press release edict for his opponent Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) to donate a nearly decade-old campaign contribution from Aaron Sandusky for $2,500 to a local charity that treats drug addicts. Sandusky, a former medical cannabis dispensary owner operating under California’s Prop. 215 and AB 420, had recently been railroaded into federal court and convicted on marijuana charges earlier this month. Sandusky had operated three “G3 Holistic, Inc.” dispensaries in the IE and a grow warehouse.
The campaign contribution in question came from when Sandusky was employed as a broker for Mortgage Solutions. Mortgage Solutions was a venture that the Warner campaign describes as a “predatory sub-prime mortgage lending business.”
“He should donate Sandusky’s tainted dollars at once,” Warner said via press release that was made public on the same day as Sandusky’s Oct. 12 conviction was handed down. “I plan on offering a similar donation from my personal resources. Drug and alcohol addiction has ravaged numerous families in San Bernardino County and throughout this country . . . It is my sincere hope my opponent will do the same by donating Aaron Sandusky’s dirty money.”
Warner’s convenient transformation from a so-called pragmatic progressive into more of a law-and-order conservative continued online. The RussForAssembly Twitter account followed up the tweet: “I call on my opponent to donate Aaron Sandusky’s $2,500 contribution to an Inland Valley charitable organization. Will he? #ad40.”
The Morrell camp was quick to inform the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin that the campaign would not be responding to the Warner call to donate the supposedly “dirty” contribution.
“It is a stretch,” Morrell told the paper. “In 2003, [Sandusky] was selling real estate. I can’t be held accountable for what he was doing in 2012. I knew him and I wouldn’t consider him a friend. He was an acquaintance who I knew in the real estate industry.”
The opportunistic assault puts Warner in a position tighter than the limited wiggle room left for mistakes in a race that the reputable non-partisan California Target Book says is to close to call. The redrawn boundaries for the 40th Assembly District is a result of efforts from the Citizens Redistricting Commission. The district skirts the foothills of the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands in an eclectic mix of middle-class and working poor communities.
The labor union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and a host of other left-leaning organizations have endorsed Warner in the race. The UFCW’s Cannabis Division organizes workers in the medical marijuana and hemp industries.
A friend of Sandusky, who posts under the name “Disgusted” in the comments section of the InlandPolitics website, said he had been under the impression that Warner was sympathetic to medical marijuana issues, based on a prior conversation “Disgusted” had with Warner. Sandusky had also asked “Disgusted” to request a character letter from Morrell (described as a “longtime friend”) because of their prior professional relationship.
This week, the Morrell campaign issued a press release that highlighted the endorsement of his candidacy by Warner’s sister. Vince Duffy, a spokesperson for the Warner campaign, did not respond to questions about the politically expedient attack on Morell using Sandusky or medical marijuana as a vehicle.