It was hard to tell from the candidates forum in Santa Clarita on Friday that the race for an open seat in a newly drawn Assembly district has evolved into full-blown Republican family feud.
But although the moderator for the sponsoring chapter of the Los Angeles County Lincoln Clubs kept the questions mostly on the issues, flashes of the animosity that has dogged the race popped up.
Three conservative Republicans are running in the 38th Assembly District, solidly GOP territory. The main combatants are Scott Wilk, a former aide to longtime Rep. Howard P. “Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), and McKeon’s wife, Patricia, who is making her first run for elected office. Also on the ballot is school board member and former animation artist Paul Strickland.
Someone in the audience asked Patricia McKeon how she squared the GOP pledge to speak no ill of fellow Republicans with her alleged accusation that Wilk was behind a website that mocked her as well as her husband’s role in her campaign. She acknowledged seeking the district attorney’s help in trying to shut down the site but denied she had suggested a connection to Wilk.
“I didn’t mention who” may have created the “Really Patricia?” site at www.patriciamckeonforassembly.com,” McKeon said. “I just asked, ‘Can you find out?’ ”
But Wilk said he had been told by the D.A.’s office that he had been named in the complaint and that a local GOP leader had publicly accused him of being connected with it. Wilk has repeatedly denied any involvement with the site, which has since been shut down. (McKeon’s official campaign website is www.patriciamckeon.com.)
Both McKeon and Wilk said Friday that the D.A. is not pursuing the matter. McKeon said that the office told her it was a civil, not a criminal, matter and that her campaign is speaking with an attorney about her options.
Other swipes were a bit more subtle. Wilk said he is the most qualified for the seat because of his service not only with Buck McKeon but also with then-GOP Assembly members Tom McClintock, who is now a congressman, and Paula Boland; both have endorsed Wilk. He also was recently elected to a second term on the Santa Clarita Community College board.
“I have the preparation and the plan” for the Assembly job, Wilk said.
That prompted Strickland to note that he has won four local elections — more than either Wilk or Patricia McKeon.
And McKeon, whose husband attended the forum and stuck around to greet voters with his wife, defended her choice to be a stay-at-home mother to six children and to support her husband’s political ambitions instead of building a career of her own.
“I’ve reared [my children] successfully here in this valley,” Patricia McKeon said in her closing remarks. The contributions she and other mothers have made in raising their families and building their communities is valuable, but “that doesn’t get all the hoopla,” she said.
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Photo: Scott Wilk, Patricia McKeon and Paul Strickland, from left. Credit: Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times