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Candidate for city council says she was unaware of new state regulations regarding imitation voters' pamphlets.

Ana Sarish said she knew she would have a tough campaign to become Happy Valley's only female city councilor when she filed for election this summer. Josh Callahan and Ana Sarish

Sarish's campaign got tougher this fall when she missed the deadline to submit her materials for the Clackamas County Voters' Pamphlet. It got even tougher when she regrouped without the county's help to mail her pamphlet statements this month to all Happy Valley voters, which garnered, in addition to positive feedback from her supporters, complaints to the secretary of state by her opponents, triggering a pending official investigation.

State investigators won't make any determinations about Sarish's potential election violation until after the Nov. 8 ballots are due back.

Having learned a lot about the difficulties and complexities of running political campaigns, Sarish says she's still hoping voters will choose her as the first woman to serve on the Happy Valley City Council since 2018 and the first Indian American councilor in the city's history. If not elected, she pledged to continue to serve as a board member for the Happy Valley Business Alliance and on the city's budget and traffic/public safety advisory committees.

"I have not heard from the secretary of the state's office yet, so I will go with the hope that they have concluded that I have not misrepresented my information on the flyer or that I had any intention of misleading anyone," Sarish said.

Sarish said her mailers looked nearly exactly how her statement would have looked if it had appeared in the Voters' Pamphlet, except she included a disclaimer that her council campaign, not the county, had sent the mailer. Using the same format and fonts in the Voters' Pamphlet, Sarish's mailer suggested page numbers between which to place her statement in the official pamphlet so that it would appear next to her opponent's statement.

Sarish said she was not aware of a new state statute that went into effect this year to regulate so-called "imitation voters' pamphlets." A spokesperson for the secretary of state's office declined to comment on Sarish's specific case but confirmed that the "word 'unofficial' must be superimposed on each page of the imitation voters' pamphlet so that the word extends diagonally across the imitation voters' pamphlet from one margin of text to the other."

"If along the way I make a mistake, I will take the appropriate steps to correct the error," Sarish said.

Immediately upon learning about the new regulations, Sarish updated her social media posts announcing the pamphlet statements to make clear that they were not official. She had acknowledged her initial mistake in her original posts by missing the pamphlet deadline.

If Sarish is found in violation of the new statute, her campaign funds would have to pay a maximum $10,000 civil fine. Typical fines, when a violation is found, are only $100, and secretary of state investigators have little precedent for enforcing the new "imitation voters' pamphlet" statute.

"I love the opportunity to learn something new, and this candidacy process is one of them," Sarish said. "This community has been incredible in its support of me, and I am grateful for the chance to potentially serve on the city council."

Sarish's opponent in the council race, Josh Callahan, pledged to continue his friendship with Sarish following the election, regardless of its outcome. Sarish, likewise, despite knowing that Callahan himself was one of the Happy Valley citizens to made official election complaints against her, plans to "continue to maintain our positive relationship after the election is over."

"Our kids go to school together, and we share many friends in this small community, so I don't believe she had any ill will in trying to garner sympathy or draw undue attention," Callahan said.

Callahan said he thinks she simply made two mistakes in missing the pamphlet deadline and then having "compounded exponentially" the initial mistake by sending out an imitation voters' pamphlet.

"While I am sympathetic to what appears to be an error on Ms. Sarish's part in not timely submitting her material, it is concerning to me that her mailer has now created the impression that somehow Ms. Sarish's material was left out or overlooked," Callahan said. "I understand her intent of trying to provide Happy Valley residents with her information, but the bottom line is that candidates need to be aware of and abide by the relevant election rules. When you put yourself out there as a leader, you have to know the law and be the standard bearer."

When they launched their campaigns, both Sarish and Callahan agreed to a fair and friendly race between two good candidates who deeply care for their community.

"I know that we will both adapt and overcome this situation," Callahan said.

Regardless of the election outcome, Callahan also promised to continue to serve the Happy Valley community as a planning commissioner if he doesn't win the seat on city council.

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