Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway is asking donors of a GOP candidate to help push him out of a Sacramento-area Assembly race.
Conway is taking aim at Andy Pugno, a Folsom attorney who is set to square off in November against another Republican, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines of Rocklin, for the 6th District Assembly seat based in Placer but stretching into Fair Oaks, Folsom, Orangevale and El Dorado Hills.
The oddity of two members of the same party squaring off in a general election was created by the state's new "top two" primary system, which creates a runoff between the top two finishers in primary elections, regardless of party.
Conway, in her letter dated July 30, noted that Pugno finished "far behind" Gaines in June balloting and that he had pledged not to launch an "expensive and counter-productive campaign" against Gaines if she topped him in the primary.
"I and other Republican Party leaders have asked him to keep his pledge, but so far he will not commit, and he continues to raise money for a campaign. He may have even asked you for money again," Conway's letter told donors. Read the full letter after the jump.
"As the Assembly Republican leader, I hope you will join me in urging Andy Pugno to keep his pledge and suspend his campaign, so we can all come together and concentrate on restoring conservative leadership to the state."
Pugno predicted that Conway's appeal will backfire against Gaines and party bosses, saying it demonstrates arrogance and "the establishment's lack of awareness of how unhappy voters are with incumbents."
"Eveyone knows I've been running against the establishment," Pugno said. "So contacting my supporters, urging them to back a Capitol insider, is a blunder that highlights they've lost touch with real people who are sick and tired of business as usual."
Pugno also has been in contact with his donors. He sent them a fundraising appeal shortly after the June primary, noting that it's time to "start thinking about the November runoff election" and asking for donations to "help us finish the job."
Pugno later characterized his fundraising letter as exploratory. He said Wednesday that, despite his previous pledge, he has not yet decided whether to run against Gaines in November.
Pugno, a co-author of Proposition 8, the state initiative to ban same-sex marriage, has painted himself as more conservative than Gaines or her key financial backer, Charles Munger, a wealthy GOP activist who ran an independent campaign urging her election.
Pugno, in his fundraising solicitation, celebrated his second-place finish to Gaines and said that "we refuse to surrender to the liberal agenda of forcing conservatives to abandon our core values."
Conway's pitch to Pugno's contributors comes at a time when Pugno is struggling with campaign debt: He started July with bills of $161,973 and cash of only $4,303, according to financial disclosure statements filed Tuesday. He personally loaned his campaign about $90,000.
Gaines, by contrast, ended June with cash of $36,335 and debts of $16,382, records show.
* Updated at 2:10 p.m. to add quote from Andy Pugno.