Democrats in the sweeping 4th Congressional District are crying foul over a campaign mailer by Republican Rep. Tom McClintock they say deceptively boosts the prospects of one candidate so the three-term incumbent can avoid a tough re-election fight.
McClintock, whose challengers include upstart Republican Art Moore and independent Jeffrey Gerlach, is sending campaign mailers to Democratic voters that portray Gerlach as the lone alternative and describe him as a liberal who supports universal health care, gay marriage and amnesty for illegal immigrants. McClintocks flier says hes led the fight to repeal the health care law, strengthen traditional families and secure U.S. borders.
Democrat Jack Uppal, who lost to McClintock in 2012, said the incumbent is resorting to dirty tricks by diverting Democratic voters to Gerlach in the June 3 primary in order to dodge a head-to-head match-up with Moore in November. Under the states new primary system, the top-two finishers regardless of party advance to the general election. Moores campaign believes it remains in strong position to do so.
Gerlach, who has not even raised enough money to file a statement, is a very little-known candidate that in most years Tom McClintock would ignore, Uppal said. Hes really just trying to say the alternative to me is Gerlach, and its not. I think Democrats have a very good alternative in Art Moore.
Moore, a businessman and combat veteran with roots in the region, is considered a formidable challenger and is also the subject of McClintocks attacks. Still, the Gerlach mailer clearly illustrates the congressman is trying to select the weaker opponent, said Rob Stutzman, Moores campaign strategist.
If I was McClintocks consultant, I would probably be doing the same thing, Stutzman said.
McClintocks campaign rejected the assertion. Gerlach is the stronger candidate to place second in the primary and were going after him, campaign manager Jon Huey said.
The comparison pamphlet cites as sources for Gerlachs positions his website, a media candidate survey, and, ironically, a local public affairs show called Blue Values TV hosted by Uppal. Prior to McClintocks mailer, the candidate guides and television program were likely voters only introductions to Gerlach.
Gerlach said he welcomed the criticism but doubted it would give him a boost.
I think either of us are pretty easy to beat in (McClintocks) mind, he said.
I am shocked that I am in this position. And I am going to play that, added Gerlach, describing his status in the media as a nameless also-ran. I am going to take that to whoever will talk about it.
Much of the early attention has been on Moore, a political novice who orchestrated a stealth entry by filing his paperwork on deadline day. The strategy prompted McClintock to contend that Moore was coordinating with Democrats to clear the field in the Republican-heavy district centered in Placer and El Dorado counties. Moore strongly denies the theory and has shot back at the incumbent for living outside the district and accepting a pension despite comments to the contrary.
McClintocks campaign, with its considerable fundraising advantage and unanimous support from local GOP activists, has stuck to focusing on Moores failure to vote in past elections. In separate mailers, McClintock took aim at Moore for never registering to vote, comparing the situation to a doctor who didnt go to medical school or a pilot who didnt know how to fly.
The right to vote in America is sacred. Its the foundation of our Republic. Its enshrined in the Constitution, one of the mailers states.
Weve fought wars to protect that right.
The mailer omits that Moore, a West Point graduate, has a combined 14 years of active duty and reserves service that includes 30 months of overseas deployment. After it began hitting mailboxes last week, Moores campaign released a statement from local veterans and other supporters condemning the deceitful attack and calling on McClintock to apologize for criticizing a veteran.
Moores campaign also reiterated his decision not to participate in civilian politics until he registered to vote for the first time in January, and noted the practice was shared by such legendary military leaders as George S. Patton, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George C. Marshall.
For Tom McClintock, who has never even sniffed an infantry boot, to criticize the manner in which Art Moore has served his country, is deeply offensive, Stutzman said.
Huey defended the pieces, pointing to a Defense Department directive encouraging members of the armed forces to carry out the obligations of citizenship.
Mr. Moores excuse that he was following some sort of military creed makes a mockery of the extraordinary efforts that our military personnel make under the most difficult circumstances to discharge the most basic obligation of citizenship to vote, Huey said. Art Moore owes every one of our servicemen and women an apology for invoking his military service as an excuse for failing to take his responsibility as an American citizen seriously.
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.