Who’s behind a pair of political text message campaign attack ads aimed at two Mission City Council candidates? No one seems to know.
One of those text blasts, however, drew threats of legal action Wednesday from two individuals who say the message inaccurately depicted their companies as being behind the texts.
Candidates running in the December 9 special election for Abiel Flores’ soon-to-be vacated Place 3 seat say residents began reporting attack ad text messages earlier this week.
Those candidates — Peter Geddes, Marissa Ortega Gerlach, Abraham Padron and Noel Salinas — all deny having anything to do with the negative texts and generally criticized the campaign for going negative.
One of the ads hit Padron, bringing up legal action involving him from a decade ago and questioning his trustworthiness.
“I would never stoop to this level and would never endorse anyone speaking ill of another or publishing untrue things,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Let’s focus on our city. We continue making strides in our community and the level of support and encouragement from those here is truly amazing. Spreading lies and resorting to slanderous accusations is truly a reflection of their character.”
The other is aimed at Gerlach and the Mission Fire Fighters Association’s endorsement of her, which drew pointed criticism from Salinas last week.
“While some are wasting precious time and energy slinging mud in a desperate attempt to try and sway public opinion, or complaining about endorsements and widespread support of my candidacy, my campaign is laser-focused on the only thing that is important to me – working hard for the opportunity to serve the citizens and families of Mission,” she said via text. “I have learned that entering the realm of politics is no easy undertaking, and that there are always going to be those who will try to bring us down, but my campaign remains above all the negative noise and is operating on a positive note and above the fray.”
Both the association and the Mission Texas Municipal Police Association, which also endorsed Gerlach, say they too have nothing to do with the messages — which are similar in form.
Both messages say they’re from Corto Media, Inc., a San Antonio-based digital marketing company with an emphasis in application-to-person texting services.
A graphic on the Padron ad includes the company logo of Paul Vazaldua, a political consultant working for Salinas’ campaign.
The problem, Corto President Dave Lozano and Vazaldua say, is that they had nothing to do with that message.
Attempts Wednesday to reach whoever sent the message failed. Lozano and Vazaldua said they think the messages came from a texting service provider out of Canada, and that they intend to pursue legal action in an effort to discover who’s behind the message.
“So our demand is to release the name of that person, and we can request that,” Lozano said.
Both men say they feel their company’s names have been used improperly.
“It’s wrong, it’s fraudulent and it is nothing but a politically desperate move,” said Vazaldua, who noted that Padron is his insurance provider and that they’ve been on friendly terms despite Vazaldua backing Salinas. “How on God’s green earth could I produce a negative ad and put my logo on it?”
Vazaldua also said he means to file a Federal Communications Commission complaint over the messaging.
Lozano acknowledged Corto Media did, however, send the Gerlach ad. He declined to divulge who paid for that message, though he said it wasn’t a candidate and described his company’s involvement in the race as minimal to nonexistent.
“That was a one-off,” he said. “We don’t have any agreement, any contracts with the candidates. We don’t even know their names.”