As he heads to a general election faceoff with Rep. Lois Capps, Republican Abel Maldonado won’t be getting the endorsement of his former GOP opponent Chris Mitchum. But he did pick up “Young Gun” status with the National Republican Congressional Committee and also hired a well-known D.C. up-and-comer to serve as his campaign’s communication director. Kurt Bardella, known as a hard-working (if not self-promoting) aide to Rep. Darrell Issa, has made waves in D.C. politics, all before the age of 30 and without a college education, and is headed to the Central Coast to work on behalf of Maldonado, the state’s former lieutenant governor. “We’re bringing in someone who is very talented and very qualified,” said Maldonado campaign manager Brandon Gesicki. Bardella came under fire last year for feeding his email correspondence with journalists to a New York Times reporter working on a book about D.C. insider politics.
News of Bardella’s hiring last week came on the same day Maldonado became a Young Gun. The Young Guns program was started a few years back to create buzz and strength around campaigns of Republican Party upstarts. In 2010, 62 of more than 90 Young Guns were elected to office. The status — the highest of the four-tiered program — is certainly a sign that Republicans see Capps as vulnerable in the newly drawn 24th District. Capps came in first in the primary last week, outpacing Maldonado 46 percent to 30 percent.
But Maldonado will have to make his bid without the support of Mitchum, who came in a distant third place behind Maldonado. Mitchum released a statement Saturday, saying that he entered the race “because I strongly support political principles that Abel Maldonado obviously doesn’t share.” For that reason, he said, he would not endorse Maldonado. “For me to do so would violate the principles and the trust of my loyal 25,000 supporters who voted for me on June 5,” Mitchum wrote. “If we don’t stand for something, we stand for nothing.”
The Capps campaign, meanwhile, is perfectly content to keep talking about Maldonado’s troubles with the Internal Revenue Service. Maldonado is in a dispute with the IRS over $4 million in unpaid taxes. “He shouldn’t be running for Congress while he’s currently avoiding paying the $4 million in federal income taxes he owes and making improper deductions for country club memberships, home remodeling, and many other personal expenses,” said Capps campaign spokesperson Jeff Millman. The Capps team also hasn’t been shy about distributing comments by various conservatives going after Maldonado. The most recent was from San Luis Obispo GOP chair Chris Arend, who said he wouldn’t vote for Maldonado come November. “I would be extremely surprised if he is the next congressman from this district,” Arend said on radio after the primary election.