The so-far snooze-inducing GOP gubernatorial primary race heated up Monday, with charges of political extortion leveled at one candidate and questions of mental stability raised about the other.
In what was touted as a "major announcement," Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner leveled charges that a top adviser to rival Meg Whitman's campaign attempted to bully him out of the two-way race by issuing "crystal-clear" threats.
Poizner called on state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate what he characterized as potentially criminal intimidation tactics.
"This is not an attempt to be hardball and to be aggressive, but this is an attempt to effectively manipulate the election process, the integrity of the election process, by issuing these threats behind the scenes to get me not to run," Poizner said.
The campaign cited an e-mail in which Whitman adviser Mike Murphy asked a Poizner campaign consultant if there is any chance Poizner will reconsider his run.
The e-mail, provided by the campaign to reporters and in a letter to law enforcement officials, says the Whitman camp can spend $40 million "tearing up Steve if we must" and suggests that if Poizner were to drop out, Republicans could "unite the entire party" behind him for a 2012 Senate bid.
"I hate the idea of us each spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a damaged nominee," Murphy wrote.
In the letter to law enforcement officials, Poizner also details several other claims, including that Murphy told a senior adviser that the campaign would "put (Poizner) through the wood chipper" if he did not drop out of the race.
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