As campaigns wind down, rhetoric and accusations heat up

A flurry of accusations unleashed over the weekend by supporters of Greg Krikorian — the Republican challenger to Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) — closed out what for months has been a contentious race.

Each side has been crying foul over assertions made in campaign mailers, claiming misconduct and attempts to confuse or mislead voters. Most recently, Krikorian supporters sent out emails alleging the Gatto campaign had intentionally misled voters reached by phone and in a slate mailer sent to Glendale and La Cañada residents.

In the mailer, Gatto’s name is listed among Republican candidates, such as presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in what Krikorian’s camp called “a blatant attempt” to mislead voters about Gatto's party affiliation.

Gatto noted that slate mailers are often used by candidates, both locally and across the country. He decided to pay an organization called Citizens for Good Government, based in Covina, to produce the mailer that was directed at Republican voters.

“Given my opponent’s history of fiscal irresponsibility, it was suggested to me by a Republican official that I reach out to Republican voters since my record on fiscal issues would likely appeal to them,” Gatto said, referring to the fact that Krikorian’s wife, Christine, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year and was cleared of almost $50,000 in credit card debt.

Krikorian was added to his wife’s case as a co-debtor.

“I don’t think there is any mystery about my party affiliation,” Gatto said. “It says I’m a Democrat on the one document that every voter is guaranteed to see and that is the ballot.”

In a statement, Krikorian said, “Given the unanimous support I’ve received from the Republican Party in our district, I would challenge Mike Gatto to reveal who the purported ‘Republican official’ was who suggested he reach out to Republicans.”

The challenger called Gatto’s comments regarding Christine Krikorian’s bankruptcy an attempt to divert attention away from the incumbent’s “failed record on education and business” and money he has received from special interests.

On Sunday, the Armenian National Committee of America - Western Region accused Gatto’s campaign of urging voters not to vote for Krikorian, allegedly while pretending to be calling on behalf of the organization.

In a statement, Elen Asatryan — the director of the ANC’s get-out-the-vote campaign, Hye Votes — accused Gatto of dirty “campaign tactics” and said her group would be investigating the alleged calls.

Gatto denied the allegations.

“I think this is a false flag. This is something they’re doing to try to motivate Mr. Krikorian’s perceived base,” Gatto said. “We have far better things to do than invoke this organization’s name.”

Gatto’s camp on Monday also lobbed its own accusations, saying Krikorian has attempted to mislead voters.

Mike Shimpock, Gatto’s campaign consultant, said a Krikorian mailer sent out a few weeks ago claimed the assemblyman protected child molesters in schools by inferring he voted against legislation introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Panorama City) that would have made it easier to dismiss teachers accused of molesting children and other sexual offenses.

However, SB 1530 never made it to the Assembly floor for a vote, and Gatto supported the intent of Padilla’s measure when it was added as an amendment to another piece of legislation, Shimpock said.


Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam.

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