Updated at 10:15 a.m. Feb. 24, 2012
Assemblyman Brian Jones helped hand out awards Thursday night at a La Mesa Chamber of Commerce salute to local heroes.
But after delivering certificates on behalf of himself and two fellow Republicans—state Sen. Joel Anderson and Rep. Duncan D. Hunter—Jones took time to hand the chamber’s CEO a prize: a pitch for her Assembly run.
“You all are blessed that your own Mary England has stepped up to run for this office, the state Assembly,” Jones told an audience of 150 at the Town & Country Resort Hotel in Mission Valley.
Jones, who is losing La Mesa as part of a district he would like to represent, didn’t mention that England, who helped revive the La Mesa chamber four years ago, is running in a Democratic leaning district, the 79th.
But he acknowledged her challenge.
“She’s in for the fight of her life,” he said. “This is not going to be an easy race for her. … She can win it, but it’s going to take a lot of work. And it’s going to take all of us working together to get her over the finish line in June and November.”
According to the IRS Code, traditional nonprofit groups are prohibited from favoring political candidates, but the La Mesa chamber has a different nonprofit status and is allowed to host political events.
England, who said she is prepared to step down from her seat on the Lemon Grove City Council if she finishes in the top two in June, is one of two Republicans in the race. She’ll also face at least four Democrats in the June open primary, where the top two vote-getters will vie in November.
Thursday night’s three-hour chamber event—with a James Bond “Casino Royale” theme for the fourth year—served as a fund-raiser for the business group as well as a chance to salute local police, community volunteers and firefighters.
Two-by-two, eight honorees received gifts from the chamber and documents from Jones.
- Paramedics Adam Daniels and Kevin Davis of American Medical Response, an ambulance service. The pair saved the life of a man whose heart had stopped beating, England said.
- La Mesa police dispatcher Jennifer Barraza and Detective Dale Perry—he for raising by 21 percent the rate of solved robberies and she for taking on extra shifts when needed.
- La Mesa-based firefighters John Burningham and Todd Nelson of the Heartland Fire & Rescue Agency for their live-saving roles in the May 2011 Lake Park Condominiums blaze, where the floor gave way and they held onto each other’s hands.
- And La Mesa police RSVP members and retirees Dave Ende and Chuck Jackson, who between them have more than 8,000 hours of volunteer service to the police department.
The chamber event cost participants $50 and included gaming chips for play at blackjack, craps and roulette. A silent auction for dozens of donated goods and services also was held.
As a 501(c)(6) nonprofit (see attached), the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce has more freedom to host political events than a traditional 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt group is “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
But the IRS says a 501(c)(6) group “may engage in political campaigns, provided that such activities are not the organization's primary activity.”