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The rain that hit Santa Clarita on Friday did not produce mudslides. The same cannot be said of Santa Clarita politics.

Twelve days before Election Day, a deluge of denigration rolled through the area, sweeping over the races for the 25th Congressional District seat and 38th Assembly District seat, even touching down in an area where the two nasty campaign fights overlap.

The maelstrom began Friday morning, when House Speaker Paul Ryan came to town, appearing with Rep. Steve Knight at a media-barred fund-raiser at the Oaks Grille restaurant at the Tournament Players Club golf course.

Steve Knight, Bryan Caforio
Steve Knight, Bryan Caforio

The Republican Knight is seeking re-election against Democrat Bryan Caforio.

Ryan’s presence induced Caforio to hold a news conference outside the tony eatery – where Caforio piled on Knight, including denouncing Knight’s support of Assembly candidate Dante Acosta in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations against Acosta, a former Knight staffer.

“Even in the face of learning about those allegations that Dante Acosta had abused his position in order to sexually harass a woman, Congressman Knight continued to endorse Mr. Acosta’s campaign for the state Assembly,’’ Caforio said.

Acosta is alleged to have made inappropriate advances on a local GOP consultant, Jennifer Van Laar, while he worked for Knight as a field operative. Acosta, who denies the allegations, is now running for the 38th Assembly seat against Democrat Christy Smith.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's motorcade departs the Tournament Players Club in Stevenson Ranch Friday morning. Austin Dave/The Signal
House Speaker Paul Ryan’s motorcade departs the Tournament Players Club in Stevenson Ranch Friday morning. Austin Dave/The Signal

Knight’s office, on Wednesday, acknowledged in a statement that Knight had met with the woman back in June to discuss the allegations – though Acosta told The Signal on Wednesday that the congressman never addressed issue with him.

Knight’s campaign was asked Friday to confirm that no conversation ever took place between Knight and Acosta over the allegations. Spokesman Matt Rexroad said only, “The Knight campaign does not have anything to say about Mr. Acosta beyond what was provided (in) our statement a couple days ago.”

Meanwhile, Knight’s office released a statement from Van Laar – who has not returned calls from the Signal — in which Van Laar defended Knight.

“Steve has always treated me with the utmost dignity and respect, and it is shameful that Bryan Caforio would politicize my personal pain and the pain of others for his own political gain,’’ Van Laar said.

“I am calling on Bryan Caforio to retract his disgusting statements and apologize to the Santa Clarita community. His shameful rhetoric is not only an insult to me, but to all women who have faced harassment.”

Caforio on Friday also continued to push a Knight-Donald Trump alliance, which Knight’s side continued to deflect. Caforio further attacked Knight’s pro-life stance and opposition to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

“Donald Trump and Congressman Knight stand in the way of women’s progress at every turn,’’ Caforio said.

“In the face of Donald Trump’s anti-woman, anti-veteran, anti-immigrant rhetoric, Speaker Ryan and Congressman Knight have remained deafeningly silent.’’

The attacks brought testy replies from Rexroad, the Knight spokesman.

“Knight has never endorsed a candidate for president or governor,” Rexroad said.

“Brian Caforio knows that Steve Knight is not supporting Donald Trump. Yet when even his own polls show he is trailing he gets up early, drives to the district from Beverly Hills, stands in the rain and then fails again to make a political point.”

Saturday marks 11 days until Election Day. Don’t expect the storm to subside.

kkenney@signalscv.com

(661) 287-5525

 

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Kevin Kenney
Over 30-plus years, Kevin Kenney has been a writer and editor for United Press International, the New York Post and Fox Sports, among other outlets. He joined The Signal in 2016.
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