Democrat Douglas Applegate, a retired U.S. Marine colonel challenging Rep. Darrell Issa's reelection bid, was accused of harassing and threatening his ex-wife during their divorce proceedings and child custody battle more than 10 years ago, court records show.
An Orange County Superior Court judge granted Applegate's former wife, Priscilla Greco, two temporary restraining orders against him in 2002 and 2004.
Court records show Greco testified that while she and Applegate were separated, he once looked through her window while she was getting dressed. She also accused him of stalking and verbally abusing her.
The Issa campaign quickly pounced on the incident, first reported by Politico on Tuesday, releasing a statement highlighting what it called the "disturbing" details of the allegations.
Applegate, a San Clemente attorney who on Monday was endorsed by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, issued a statement Tuesday accusing the Issa campaign of a "desperate and politically motivated attack."
"I love my family and couldn't be more proud of the children I've raised with Priscilla. This kind of dirty personal attack is exactly what's wrong with politics and voters deserve better," Applegate said. "As someone who has worked with victims of domestic violence, I'm appalled that Congressman Issa would sink so low but unfortunately I'm not surprised."
The Applegate campaign also released a statement from Greco, who said she supports her former husband's bid for Congress and will be voting for him in November. When contacted by The Times, Greco said she had no further comment.
"I'm disappointed that someone is making disrespectful and uninformed personal attacks against our family," she said in the statement. "Doug and I are parents first, and we raised two amazing children together."
The Applegate campaign also released a video of his two children, 20-year-old son Loren and 17-year-old daughter Renee, who defended their father and said he was a "great dad who's always been there for us."
Applegate's campaign manager, Robert Dempsey, said the allegations against the candidate came during a contentious divorce and that the court never found him responsible for any wrongdoing.
When the temporary restraining orders were issued, Applegate complied with a court order and turned over his two handguns to authorities. The firearms were later returned, Dempsey said.
Court records show that Applegate was also arrested for driving under the influence in 1999. He received a sentence of five years' probation, and the charges were dismissed in 2005.
Issa, an eight-term Republican congressman from Vista, also had brushes with the law when he was a young man. He has been charged twice with car theft, although both cases were later dismissed. He was charged twice with carrying a concealed weapon.
On Jan. 16, 1973, Issa pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of an unregistered gun. A magistrate fined him $100, put him on probation and ordered him to pay $107 in court costs. At the time, Issa was a student at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich.
By day's end, the California Democratic Party and National Republican Congressional Committee joined the fray, issuing dueling statements about the allegations and Issa's political record.
Issa outspent Applegate by more than $700,000 in the June primary, but Applegate still nabbed 45.5% of the vote in the 49th Congressional District race, while Issa finished with 50.8%.
Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it would provide support for Applegate's general election campaign.
Willon reported from Sacramento and Carcamo reported from the city of Orange.