Republican Paul Chabot, left, and Democrat Pete Aguilar were all smiles when they greeted each other before a debate at the University of Redlands in October 2014. But their rematch this year has been marked by personal attacks and accusations. (Kurt Miller/File Photo)

By Jeff Horseman, The Press-Enterprise
Posted: 09/09/16 – 10:34 PM PDT |

Election Day is almost two months away, but there’s already a front-runner for the ugliest Inland political contest of 2016.

The race between Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands, and Republican congressional candidate Paul Chabot has gotten nasty, with Chabot referring to his opponent as “Agu-Liar” and Aguilar’s supporters accusing Chabot of raiding his kids’ piggy bank.

The acrimony reached a new level last week, when the San Bernardino County Democratic Party announced a complaint against Chabot would be lodged with the House Committee on Ethics.

A committee spokesman declined to say whether the committee has received the complaint, and Chabot said he has yet to see a copy. “Nor have we have been contacted by House ethics, and nor will we play into Aguilar’s dishonest campaign tactic,” Chabot wrote in an email.

On Wednesday, county Democrats announced another complaint would be filed with the Federal Election Commission. “Specifically, it appears as if Chabot raided his children’s savings in order to make an excessive loan to his campaign, and then misrepresented the source of those funds,” the complaint read.

In an emailed response, Chabot spokesman Ryan Hall said: “Career politician Pete Aguilar is clearly attempting to hold onto his political life. His campaign is threatening to file a malicious and dishonest complaint with no merit or truth and we demand an immediate retraction.”

An FEC spokeswoman was unable to confirm receipt of the complaint Wednesday. County Democratic Party Chairman Chris Robles provided two postal service tracking numbers as proof that the complaints to the ethics committee and FEC had been mailed.

Aguilar, a former Redlands mayor, and Chabot, a naval reserve intelligence officer and Iraq War veteran from Rancho Cucamonga, are running to represent California’s 31st Congressional District, which includes San Bernardino, Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga, Loma Linda, Colton and Grand Terrace.

It’s a rematch of the 2014 contest in which Aguilar beat Chabot for an open seat vacated by Republican Gary Miller.

Bolstered by spending from out-of-district groups and the Democratic establishment — Vice President Joe Biden held a rally for Aguilar in Colton just before the November election — Aguilar won 52 percent of the vote and defeated Chabot by almost 3,500 votes.

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