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San Diego County Democratic Party Removes Facebook Ad After Outcry

City Council District 8 candidates Vivian Moreno and Antonio Martinez, vying ...

Credit: Courtesy of the Vivian Moreno and Antonio Martinez campaigns.

Above: City Council District 8 candidates Vivian Moreno and Antonio Martinez, vying to replace termed-out council member David Alvarez, are seen in these undated photos.

The San Diego County Democratic Party quickly removed an ad on Facebook this week that attacked a member of its own party who is running for San Diego City Council.

The ad called Vivian Moreno, who's running to replace termed-out incumbent David Alvarez in District 8, "the choice of Trump Republicans." Moreno is a Democrat and a community representative in Alvarez's office.

The ad was taken down on Wednesday after an outcry in the comment section. Jessica Hayes, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, said the ad was posted without permission by someone with administrative access to the party's Facebook page.

"That person is no longer working with us," she said. She declined to provide that person's name.

The county party has endorsed Moreno's opponent in the race, Antonio Martinez, a community health clinic worker and a board member of the San Ysidro School District.

District 8 includes Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.

Facebook maintains an archive of political ads. It shows two entries for the ad with slightly different captions. According to the archive, both versions cost less than $100 and reached fewer than 1,000 Facebook users.

The ad's performance data show it reached more women than men, suggesting it may have targeted a specific demographic.

Joe LaCava, a Democratic activist and donor who supports Moreno, said he was appalled by the ad's negative tone and feared it would discourage quality Democrats from running for office.

RELATED: Candidates Vivian Moreno And Antonio Martinez On Race For City Council District 8

"We certainly want to encourage people to run in races fully prepared that the other side, the other party, will attack you," he said. "But when your own party goes after you, it certainly sends a message of 'Don't get involved in politics, don't run for elected office.'"

Moreno's campaign manager, Gerardo Ramirez, also condemned the ad.

"Flagrant lies like this should have no place in San Diego politics," Ramirez said in a statement. "The immediate backlash to this false advertisement proves that the public is not falling for it."

Facebook's ad archive shows the performance of an ad sponsored by the San Diego County Democratic Party promoting Antonio Martinez and attacking Vivian Moreno.

Jessica Hayes, chairwoman of the San Diego County Democratic Party, did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

Martinez campaign consultant Dan Rottenstreich sent a statement via email repeating attacks on Moreno for her campaign's acceptance of $450 in contributions from two local businesses, which are prohibited by city law. Moreno said her acceptance of the donations was a mistake and she was refunding them.

"Vivian Moreno will do anything to advance her own political interests," Rottenstreich said. "That's the truth about Moreno’s ugly pay to play politics and unfortunately the truth hurts."

RELATED: Outside Spending Surges In San Diego City Council Races

Rottenstreich added that Moreno is supported by an independent expenditure committee, or "super PAC," with major funding from the Building Industry Association of San Diego. That group represents home builders and often also endorses Republicans. Candidates' official campaigns are prohibited from coordinating or strategizing with super PACs.

Martinez is supported by a super PAC funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135. That labor organization came under scrutiny last year and this year because of sexual harassment and gender discrimination allegations against its leader, Mickey Kasparian. Kasparian denied the allegations and settled three lawsuits related to the charges.

While Moreno lost the endorsement of the county party, she has won the support of various local Democratic clubs, including those representing women and the LGBT community. She has also been endorsed by Councilman Alvarez, her boss, and Councilwoman Georgette Gomez.

Martinez has been endorsed by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council — an umbrella labor organization — the San Diego Police Officers Association and City Councilman Chris Ward.

Moreno finished first in the June primary elections with 35.6 percent of the vote. Martinez came in second with 27.3 percent, finishing only three votes ahead of third-placed candidate Christian Ramirez.

Claire Trageser contributed to this story.

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