As the national parties turn their attention and money toward a vulnerable California House Republican, the campaign has taken a turn for the worse.
Incumbent Rep. Steve Knight and Democratic challenger Bryan Caforio have been trading insults and accusations over deceptive campaign practices, sexual harassment allegations against a former staffer, and collusion with outside groups.
Caforio recently accused Knight of illegally using the seal of the city of Santa Clarita on campaign flyers, saying it gave the perception of a government endorsement, USA Today reported.
Acting on Knight's behalf, the Washington-based Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint with the Federal Election Committee, claiming the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee colluded with Caforio's campaign on spending for TV ads.
Caforio campaign manager Orrin Evans called the allegation “a baseless complaint from a right-wing group with extensive ties to shady, secret, dark money organizations.”
The Caforio campaign has also tried to make an issue of Dante Acosta, a former Knight staffer who is running for the state Assembly. It accused Acosta of sexual harassment based on the claims of a GOP consultant in widely circulated emails.
Knight met with the accuser last week, and determined she didn’t want to meet with law enforcement or pursue legal action, he said in a statement. Acosta has denied the charges.
Caforio set up a news conference across from the golf club where the closed-press fundraiser was being held, saying Republicans were “running scared” and that Knight was “out of touch.”
Local newspapers which have endorsed Knight have highlighted his police background and career in state government, including stints as city councilman, state assemblyman, and state senator, and point to Caforio’s recent move into the district.
“All the [DCCC] wants is to win a Democratic majority in the House, and it intends to hijack California’s 25th Congressional District to accomplish that goal,” wrote The Santa Clarita Signal in their endorsement of Knight.