Democratic Rep. Ami Bera, fighting to retain his seat against Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, released a scathing TV ad on Friday hitting Jones for recently revealed allegations of unwanted sexual advances toward a subordinate more than a decade ago.
Jones, in a prepared statement, urged Bera to pull down the ad, which he characterized as a “false smear.”
Bera’s TV spot, which features news coverage of the deputy sheriff’s allegations against Jones, but no additional commentary about the incident from Bera’s campaign, signals a sharp negative turn in the race for the 7th Congressional District, closely contested turf that spans suburban Sacramento.
The ad comes as Jones slowly dials up his critiques of Bera, bluntly suggesting that he was aware of his father’s campaign finance violations in service to the congressman’s 2010 and 2012 congressional campaigns. Bera’s 83-year-old father was recently sentenced to one year in prison, and the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday that it has concluded its investigation, with no charges against the younger Bera.
Still, Jones and supporters have reserved hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV airtime, possibly to amplify the attacks on Bera and his father.
The accusations of unwelcome contact by Jones came in a deposition by Tosca Olives, at the time a 26-year-old sheriff’s deputy, as part of a retaliation lawsuit against the department that is costing the county more than $10 million. Olives claimed about 30 inappropriate encounters from 2003 to 2005, but said she and Jones also engaged in mutual kissing.
Jones, in a sworn statement filed with the court, countered that he never had romantic or sexual interest in Olives and, except once, when she kissed him, “never had any physical contact with her of an intimate nature.”
“Congressman Bera’s flagging and increasingly desperate campaign is trying to shift the blame from his campaign’s own illegal – and felonious – behavior to smear someone who has spent 27 years protecting the people of his county,” Jones’ campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said in response to the ad Friday.
“It’s understandable. Congressman Bera’s laughable claims of ignorance while watching his father go to prison show the true character of this congressman. And it’s clear he understands that his only path to re-election is by smearing Sheriff Jones rather than making the case for himself.”