A negative campaign mailer sent to supporters of Larry Liston paints the Republican state House of Representatives candidate as a cross-dressing liberal, and that's not even the worst part of it, Liston said.
"It's voter intimidation coming from a state senator that is using his power in office to intimidate people from giving," Liston said. "I'm a big boy. I've seen mail pieces and this, that and the other. But this is gutter politics at its worst."
The four-page letter was sent to people who have financially supported Liston's campaign against incumbent Rep. Janak Joshi, R-Colorado Springs.
It includes what appears to be Sen. Kent Lambert's official state letterhead and his signature, and was sent from his office.
"Rather than you unknowingly supporting Liston at first, I hope you will take this opportunity to request a refund from his campaign so as not to aid and support his dishonorable antics against voters and opposing respected public servants," the letter states. The letter includes a form to send to Liston's campaign requesting a refund.
Jon Hotaling, a well-known political consultant working on Joshi's campaign, defended the mailer.
"The truth is not negative unless it exposes your liberal record," Hotaling said. "I take Sen. Lambert at his word that he was concerned knowing how Larry Liston lies ... he wanted to make sure they knew the truth."
Liston was a representative for eight years before reaching his term limit. He has sat out the requisite amount of time before running again.
The mailer has upset others including former state Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and Eli Bremer, former chair of the El Paso County GOP.
One page of the letter includes two photos of Liston from Hummers, a skit put on by the minority party in the House chambers every year skewering the majority party. It also includes a link to a story about criticism Liston faced for calling unwed mother's "sluts." Liston later apologized for the statement. Another link in the letter takes readers to the 2011 voting log on Senate Bill 200, which created the state exchange for the Affordable Care Act and shows Liston voted for the legislation.
Liston said those are "gross misrepresentations."
Stephens said there is a "long-standing House and Senate agreement" that anything in Hummers would not be used for or against someone in political campaigns.
"It's just reprehensible that this would be violated," Stephens said.
Lambert said he served with Liston in the House and participated in Hummers but never to "that extent."
"We deal with a lot of very serious issues and to be cavalier and to try to be humorous about his statements in committee about unwed mothers being sluts ... if there's an overall pattern of disrespect against women, then people need to know about it," Lambert said.
Bremer said he received the letter in the mail and thought it was a "gross abuse of political power."
"That a sitting state senator would send threatening letters including the name of my company, a threatening letter because I attended a political function, is absolutely abhorrent," Bremer said.
Lambert and Hotaling said the mailer wasn't intended as a threat, veiled or otherwise.
"I thought it was a very polite letter saying we greatly respect your opinions on this but you may not understand his record," Lambert said. "It's not intended to be a threat and it's not a threat."
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