Cantu denies ‘dirty politics’ accusations

San Benito County District Attorney candidate Arthur Cantu
rejects claims that he’s playing dirty politics, saying instead
that he’s been the victim of a smear campaign by his opponent.
San Benito County District Attorney candidate Arthur Cantu rejects claims that he’s playing dirty politics, saying instead that he’s been the victim of a smear campaign by his opponent.

The 42-year-old father of six, who has been a local defense attorney for eight years, said the run-off election against John Sarsfield has taken on a ugly tenor for the past 7 1/2 months because of what Cantu says are personal attacks against him by Sarsfield.

“Unfortunately, since the March primary he has been running a negative campaign,” Cantu said.

Although a number of local political pundits consider Cantu’s campaign an aggressive one, Cantu insists that any action he has taken politically have been in response to those from Sarsfield’s camp.

“We agreed since the primary that what we need to do is to maintain our focus on our platform and our plan of improving the juvenile justice system,” Cantu said. “Anything else is a distraction.”

Cantu said Sarsfield made the contest personal when he criticized those close to him.

“He has attacked my family and insulted my friends in the law enforcement community,” Cantu said. “He criticized the board of directors of Northern Alliance of Law Enforcement.”

Cantu, however, was unable to cite any specific instance of Sarsfield’s campaign attacking his family.

Sarsfield’s criticism of NALE stems from a dispute concerning Cantu’s assertion that he was endorsed by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a 33,000-member organization. Cantu’s endorsement from NALE supposedly included an endorsement from CCPOA.

However, local and state representatives of CCPOA said Cantu did not have the group’s endorsement, and at one point sent a representative to Hollister to personally deliver a message to Cantu that he was not being endorsed by the group and that CCPOA is instead endorsing Sarsfield.

But Cantu’s endorsement from NALE remained intact.

Recently, Cantu said he believes Sarsfield has been trying to undermine his campaign with the help of a local weekly newspaper.

On Oct. 17, Cantu filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against The Pinnacle, claiming that the newspaper was working as an “arm” of Sarsfield’s campaign and might be in violation of the state’s Political Reform Act.

Cantu’s complaint alleges that employees of The Pinnacle conducted a series of unethical practices in an attempt to dig up unfavorable information against him that could be used in the newspaper to discredit him.

In his complaint, Cantu also alleged that The Pinnacle refused to write anything negative about Sarsfield.

Pinnacle publisher Tracie Cone vehemently denied the allegations in Cantu’s complaint.

“This is just not true,” Cone said. “I don’t know where he got this from.”

Cantu refused to explain the allegations in the complaint, referring questions to a written statement.

“I will leave the decision on that to state officials,” Cantu said.

Although he presented no evidence, Cantu continues to assert that Sarsfield is playing dirty politics.

“This campaign should be focusing on the issues, while Mr. Sarsfield is focusing on negative attacks,” Cantu said.

Cantu, a former president of the San Benito County Bar Association, said he has come up with a strategy that will protect the community from many types of criminals. His vision includes a heavy focus on youths and preventing juvenile crime.

“That means having a full-time juvenile attorney working with law enforcement, and the schools and the teachers in stopping gang violence and reducing juvenile crime,” Cantu said.

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