Republican lieutenant governor candidate Mike Curb accused Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy of resorting to "dirty tricks" Monday after a worker for McCarthy's San Diego campaign posed as a reporter and, by at least two accounts, asked the GOP candidate "mean, nasty questions."
"It's an absolute new low. They tried to trip up my candidate, sending someone out posing as a news reporter," said Fred Karger, Curb's campaign manager.
The flare-up was the latest in an increasingly bitter campaign fight between McCarthy and Curb, a former lieutenant governor trying to win back his old job. For weeks, each side has been accusing the other of lying and misrepresenting its record.
The impostor, San Diego State University student David Genser, active in the campus New Democrats club, conceded that he misrepresented himself.
But Genser denied that he was sent to the Curb speech in San Diego by the McCarthy campaign, as did a spokesman for the Democratic lieutenant governor.
Genser admitted that he gave "the wrong appearance" by claiming that he was working for the university newspaper, the Daily Aztec.
"I am not a reporter for the student paper. I understand it was a misrepresentation, and I should not have done so," said Genser, 25, a political science student who said he had in mind writing an article for the paper but had not contacted the paper's editors.
According to Karger, Genser asked Curb "mean, nasty questions with a bitter tone" about several controversies in the GOP candidate's background.
The characterization was not denied by Nick Johnson, who heads the San Diego Group, a campaign management firm that handles McCarthy's operations in that city.
Johnson said Genser works for his firm as an unsalaried intern. He said he assigned Genser to tape Curb's speech to the San Diego County Federation of Women but had no idea he would pose as a reporter.
"Obviously, it shouldn't have happened. Believe me, it will never happen again," he said. Johnson said he tries to tape all of Curb's speeches in San Diego for use by the McCarthy campaign.
Stephen Hopcraft, spokesman for the McCarthy campaign, said, "This kid interns for the San Diego Group. He doesn't work for Californians for McCarthy. He goes to San Diego State and is writing a story for the student newspaper. What's the big deal?"
Karger did not accept Hopcraft's explanation. He noted that last week in Sacramento, a law enforcement group supporting McCarthy sent police officers in civilian clothes to two Curb events to tape-record the candidate's speeches.