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. McClintock’s flier says he’s 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 state’s new primary system, the top-two finishers regardless of party advance to the general election. Moore’s 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. “He’s really just trying to say ‘the alternative to me is Gerlach,’ and it’s not. I think Democrats have a very good alternative in Art Moore.”
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Moore, a businessman and combat veteran with roots in the region, is considered a formidable challenger and is also the subject of McClintock’s attacks. Still, the Gerlach mailer clearly illustrates the congressman is trying to select the weaker opponent, said Rob Stutzman, Moore’s campaign strategist.
“If I was McClintock’s consultant, I would probably be doing the same thing,” Stutzman said.
McClintock’s campaign rejected the assertion. Gerlach is the stronger candidate to place second in the primary and “we’re going after him,” campaign manager Jon Huey said.
The comparison pamphlet cites as sources for Gerlach’s positions his website, a media candidate survey, and, ironically, a local public affairs show called “Blue Values TV” hosted by Uppal. Prior to McClintock’s 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 (McClintock’s) 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.
McClintock’s campaign, with its considerable fundraising advantage and unanimous support from local GOP activists, has stuck to focusing on Moore’s 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 didn’t go to medical school or a pilot who didn’t know how to fly.
“The right to vote in America is sacred. It’s the foundation of our Republic. It’s enshrined in the Constitution,” one of the mailers states.
“We’ve 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, Moore’s campaign released a statement from local veterans and other supporters condemning the “deceitful attack” and calling on McClintock to apologize for criticizing a veteran.
Moore’s 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. Moore’s 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.”