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A legal tussle between two Republican state lawmakers has ended, with Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, dropping her $10 million defamation lawsuit against Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Escondido.

The dispute grew out of comments Wyland made to a Tea Party group about a lawsuit brought against Harkey and her husband, Dan, alleging that he had defrauded investors. Harkey responded by suing Wyland for defamation, claiming that his remarks had "the sole purpose of embarrassing her politically" to gain an advantage in his campaign to sit on California's statewide tax board.

Harkey has since abandoned that effort, as reported by Cal Newsroom and confirmed by the docket record for the case, filed in Orange County Superior Court.

Both lawmakers are running for an open seat on the Board of Equalization. Termed-out incumbent Michelle Steel, who is running for Orange County Supervisor, has endorsed Harkey.

A spokesman for Harkey's campaign said that, despite the lawsuit being dropped, Wyland still distorted the facts when he addressed the tea party group. That should remain an active factor in the Board of Equalization campaign, spokesman Tim Clark said.

"We're going to let it play out on the campaign battlefield and let the voters see what Mark has done," Clark said. "We're going to take it straight to the voters."

Editor's note: this post was updated at 11:45 a.m. to include Clark's comments.

PHOTO: Diane Harkey watches votes during the Assembly floor session, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer.


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