Thursday, May 12, 2016

"Gutter politics" emerging in Liston-Joshi race

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 1:10 PM

Larry Liston is crying foul over letters to his donors urging them to demand their money back. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Larry Liston is crying foul over letters to his donors urging them to demand their money back.
"Gutter politics" is at work in the race for House District 16, says contender Larry Liston, who is facing off in the Republican primary election against incumbent Rep. Janak Joshi, a former doctor who surrendered his license for "unprofessional conduct" in 2008, according to the Colorado Medical Board. Joshi is seeking his fourth two-year term.

State Sen. Kent Lambert, whose House seat Joshi won when Lambert ran for the Senate, sent a letter dated May 5 to all of Liston's donors blasting Liston and distorting his record, Liston says. The letter tells donors to ask for their donations back, and even has an envelope enclosed for this purpose.

"I'm a big boy," says Liston, a former state legislator who's been involved in party politics for 30 to 40 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."

Also enclosed with Lambert's letter was a list of allegations designed to make Liston not look as ultra-conservative as Joshi, but all of it's 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 enclosure also contains two pictures of Liston dressed as a woman and labeled "Larry Liston cross dressing on the House floor...."

In truth, Liston did don wigs and women's clothing during what's called "hummers," held the last day of the legislative session when minority party lawmakers take shots, in fun, at majority legislators. Both times, Liston had told the female House members he would be poking fun at them in advance, and both took it in stride, as do all lawmakers, he says. "She laughed as much as anyone," he says of Morgan Carroll, then a state representative and now senator.

Liston says when Lambert's campaign letter for Joshi was distributed, "hummers" was called off this year, because legislators feared that once the bond of agreement that the event is lighthearted and in good faith was broken, they feared their frivolous antics, too, would appear in campaign materials.

Lambert's letter also claims that 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 apparently 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."

Haley says he's sent emails to Lambert and Joshi expressing disappointment with the tactic and termed the strategy "horrible."

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."

Behind the whole ploy, Liston thinks, is political consultant Jon Hotaling, known for mud-slinging tactics and his association with Colorado Right to Life, among other extreme right-wing causes. Hotaling works for Joshi, and he also worked for Hill in 2012 when he defeated Liston for the Senate seat. Attack ads against Liston from the Hill race are being repeated in the Joshi race.

Liston says he's sure the smear tactics won't end before the June 28 primary, but he'll be watching when the next campaign finance reports are due, on Monday, to see if Joshi reports the expense associated with Lambert's letters.

"The truth is, there's no obstacle for these people. They always twist whatever it may be. It's all about control and power," Liston says "They [ultra-conservatives] own Joshi. He's a pawn. They don't own me, and they never have."

We've sent emails to Lambert and Joshi seeking comment. Joshi has typically ignored the Independent's phone calls and emails seeking comment. But if we hear from either, we'll update.



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