Political charges and denials spurred by radio ads

FRESNO — The campaign to replace George Radanovich in the 19th Congressional District heated up this week with two of the four Republican candidates sniping at each other, primarily about radio advertisements sponsored by a Washington, D.C.-based environmental organization.

The ads attacked former Congressman Richard Pombo by using alleged ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and claims that Pombo took family vacations on the taxpayer's dime.

State Sen. Jeff Denham called a news conference Wednesday to say he has no connection to the environmental groups running the ads. He then accused the Pombo campaign of making the claims, as well as starting other false rumors.

The Pombo campaign denied the charge.

The back-and-forth highlighted an intensified battle for the Republican nomination in the 19th District, a race that includes former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson and Fresno City Council President Larry Westerlund, as well as Denham and Pombo.

Denham, who was joined at the news conference by former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry and Radanovich, called on Pombo to prove that Denham is tied to the environmental ads, as well as another charge that Denham cooperated with Democrats.

Pombo's campaign denied that charge, too.

An independent committee formed last month by Tal Cloud, a Fresno businessman, along with partner Tim Orman, made claims that Denham twice voted for Democratic Party-backed state budgets that contained deficits.