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The already bruising Republican infighting for a state Senate seat east of Sacramento got even rougher Friday.

Roger Niello, candidate for the 1st Senate District, filed a complaint Friday with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission against fellow Republican Ted Gaines.

The two are in a four-way special election race -- with Republican Barbara Alby and Democrat Ken Cooley -- for a seat left open after Republican Sen. Dave Cox died last July.

Niello, a Fair Oaks assemblyman, charges that Gaines violated campaign spending restrictions when producing a mailer that Gaines recently sent out to voters. The mailer -- signed by Gaines' wife, Beth -- complains that Niello has attacked her family in a "mean-spirited" fashion.

Gaines, a Roseville assemblyman, is running for both re-election in his Assembly district and for the Senate seat. Election rules permit him to run for both, but he would have to resign from the Assembly to serve in the Senate.

The mailer, which went to voters in both districts where Gaines is running, has Gaines' wife asking voters to cast ballots for her husband in both races "to make sure a liberal Democrat does not win one of the seats."

NIello is charging that Gaines' two campaigns made improper use of mixed funds from each campaign to produce the mailer, which is dated Oct. 21. A Gaines Senate campaign spokesman, Dave Gilliard, denied the accusation and said Niello was attempting to take an unfair late swipe at Gaines.

The production of the mailers was "followed to the letter of the law, in consultation with the FPPC," Gilliard said.

FPPC spokesman Roman Porter said that mailers from a candidate targeting two districts at the same time have to be paid for by each distinct campaign in proportion equal to the mailer's focus on each race.

Gilliard said that since the mailer focuses heavily on the Senate race, that campaign paid most of the price tag.

Stephanie Jantzen, spokeswoman for the Niello campaign, said, "If that's true, let's see." She said Gaines' Senate campaign reported it was deep in debt as of Oct. 21.

Gaines' campaign is firing back, calling a Niello mailer unfair because it says Gaines wasted taxpayer dollars on an out-of-state "junket for his family."

Although the mailer doesn't say it, the trip was to Washington, D.C., in 2001, when Gaines was a Placer County supervisor and traveled to Washington with other supervisors for county business.

A travel receipt includes four tickets, including one for Beth Gaines. Gilliard said that Gaines reimbursed the money for tickets from "private funds."

"He definitely did not use taxpayer money, which is what their mailer says," Gilliard said.


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