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Anna Pletcher, who is vying with prosecutor Lori Frugoli to become Marin County’s next district attorney in November, came out on top in a legal skirmish with the county elections office Wednesday.

Registrar of Voters Lynda Roberts told Pletcher she would have to change the candidate statement she submitted to appear on November’s ballot because it would indicate her party affiliation.

The statement included the sentence: “That’s why I’m endorsed by the Marin Democratic Party, the Sierra Club, and over 50 current and former Marin leaders including Supervisors Kate Sears and Dennis Rodoni, Novato Mayor Josh Fryday, and retired Judge Faye D’Opal.”

California election law specifies “the statement shall not include the party affiliation of the candidate, nor membership or activity in partisan political organizations.”

But Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy Chernus, who ruled in Pletcher’s favor Wednesday, said state law also specifies that any objection to a statement based on this statue must involve the filing of a writ of mandate or injunction request no later than 10 calendar days following the filing deadline for the statement.

Chernus wrote that the registrar’s challenge was “untimely and does not conform to the statutorily authorized procedure.” He ordered the registrar to print Pletcher’s candidate statement as originally submitted.

There was no time to spare; candidate statements were scheduled to go to the printer Thursday.

Pletcher, who was represented by San Rafael attorney Benjamin Stock, was at her lawyer’s side Wednesday when Chernus made his ruling final. Following the hearing, she declined to comment.

Roberts, who also attended the hearing, said, “I appreciate the clarity the order provides.”

Court documents show that Pletcher initially submitted her candidate’s statement on Aug. 10. According to the county’s response to Pletcher’s legal challenge, the registrar’s office received a complaint about the statement from a “member of the public” on Aug. 17.

Roberts said the complaint was registered by Andre Charles, Frugoli’s campaign manager.

While Charles made his initial complaint within the 10-day statutory period to file challenges, he waited until Aug. 21 to inform the registrar’s office that the Democratic Central Committee of Marin’s bylaws allow the committee to extend endorsements exclusively to registered Democrats.

Pletcher initially agreed to submit an alternative candidate statement after the registrar’s office told her there was a problem. On Aug. 22, she suggested substituting a reference to an endorsement by “Indivisible Marin.”

However, the registrar’s office told Pletcher that wouldn’t do either because Indivisible Marin is a “partisan political organization.”

According to its website, Indivisible Marin was “founded in a San Rafael living room by friends who came together in the aftermath of the 2016 elections,” and the organization is “committed to early action to turn red districts blue with the ultimate objective of taking back Congress.”

In her filing, Pletcher states that when she sought further clarification on Aug. 24, she was told she had until the morning of Aug. 27 to submit an acceptable statement. Pletcher filed her legal challenge to the registrar’s action on Tuesday.

In court on Wednesday, Deputy County Counsel Valorie Boughey argued that it “doesn’t make sense” that the law would sanction the publishing of unauthorized language simply because a challenge was registered one day after the deadline.

Chernus asked Boughey if she thought there is any limit on how close to a publishing date a registrar can require a candidate to change a statement. Boughey said not as long as the change could be made in time to meet the publishing deadline.

Frugoli declined to comment on Chernus’ ruling.

Charles, however, said, “Lori is a proud Democrat and she mentions that frequently on her website and in her campaign material. Our endorsers are Democrats as well.

“When we were writing our ballot statement,” he added, “we didn’t include references to parties because it is our understanding that it is a violation of the election code.”

Marin DA hopeful beats complaint over alleged ballot violation

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