'Gutter politics" is at work in the race for House District 16, says contender Larry Liston, who faces Rep. Janak Joshi in the June 28 Republican primary election. Joshi, a former doctor who surrendered his license for "unprofessional conduct" in 2008, is seeking his fourth two-year term.
In a letter to Liston's donors dated May 5, state Sen. Kent Lambert, whose House seat Joshi won when Lambert ran for the Senate, blasts Liston and distorts his record, Liston says. Lambert tells donors to ask for their donations back, and even enclosed an envelope for that purpose.
"I'm a big boy," says Liston, a former state legislator who's been involved in party politics for more than 30 years. "I've seen a lot. But this is gutter politics. It's voter intimidation. It's trying to suppress free speech, because donations are free speech. We need to hold people like Lambert and Joshi responsible."
Lambert also enclosed a list of allegations designed to make Liston look less conservative than the ultra-conservative Joshi, but it's all untrue or partially untrue, according to Liston.
For example, Lambert claims Liston in 2005 voted in favor of Referendum C, a measure lawmakers submitted to voters that allowed the state to keep the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights refund to pay for transportation needs. Voters approved the measure. In truth, Liston voted to accept a conference committee bill on the issue but immediately voted, in the next House vote, against the bill.
Lambert's letter also claims Liston "withdrew from the House District 16 Assembly against Janak Joshi when he knew he would be overwhelmingly rejected by your Republican delegates and not make the ballot." In truth, Liston never withdrew from the assembly. He already had delivered the needed number of signatures to petition onto the ballot by the time the assembly took place in late March. Joshi was voted onto the ballot at the assembly by acclamation, meaning there were no other nominations, so Liston couldn't have withdrawn.
While Liston prides himself on his conservatism, it's not extreme enough for Lambert, Joshi and Sen. Owen Hill, who also supports Joshi.
"If you're not far right enough, you're a bad person," Liston says, characterizing Lambert's and Joshi's beliefs.
The strategy of encouraging Liston's donors to seek a refund is backfiring, Liston reports. "My donors and supporters are rock-solid. Some have even sent me another check."
Tim Haley gave Liston $375 and had this to say about the letter: "I wanted to immediately make another donation. It was very nice of him [Lambert] to provide me with a nice envelope to do that."
Although Lambert's letter appears to have been a product of Lambert acting on his own, the return address is a Post Office box associated with Joshi, Liston says. Moreover, each letter to roughly 200 donors is personalized with the amount each gave to Liston noted in the letter, so, "This isn't something Lambert put together on his PC."
Liston suspects Joshi's political consultant Jon Hotaling is behind the letter. Hotaling also worked for Hill in 2012 when he defeated Liston for the Senate seat following attack ads against Liston from the Hill camp with the same themes as in the Joshi race.
"The truth is, there's no obstacle for these people," Liston says. "They always twist whatever it may be. It's all about control and power. They [ultra-conservatives] own Joshi. He's a pawn. They don't own me, and they never have."
Lambert and Joshi did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Liston has raised $34,214 to Joshi's $25,926; but the candidates are virtually tied for cash on hand with Liston reporting $17,661 to Joshi's $17,098 in reports filed recently.
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