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Three days after learning he would face an intraparty challenger, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock has come out swinging against what he's calling an attempted "total liberal takeover."

"It's obvious -- the liberals want to entice enough Republicans to break off and join Democrats to elect a liberal Republican in a district that won't elect a liberal Democrat," McClintock wrote in an email to his large network of donors.

The fundraising appeal follows Republican Art Moore's entry into the 4th district contest. Under the state's new primary rules, the top-two votegetters, regardless of political party, advance to the general election in November.

Jeffrey Gerlach, who is not affiliated with a political party, is also running.

McClintock's campaign noted that at least three prospective Democratic candidates pulled papers to run, but ultimately stayed out of the race.

Most of the voters live in Placer and El Dorado counties, but the district stretches south to Fresno County and is heavily Republican. With no Democrats on the ballot, the district's 117,765 registered Democrats may be inclined to choose the more moderate Republican candidate.

In his fundraising email, McClintock asserts that a well-funded liberal coalition, in coordination with Democrats, is testing a new strategy to silence conservatives in California. That contention, at this point, is more of a suspicion than anything else.

None of the Democrats have admitted to any coordination. Kris Johnson abandoned her campaign saying a recent injury would require a long rehabilitation period. Donald Colbourn suspended his campaign after a brief flirtation. El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who expressed interest in the race, did not return a call seeking comment about her decision not to run.

Moore, a military officer who lives in Roseville, touts himself as a conservative Republican who believes in individual liberty and limited government.

"Art hopes to elevate the dialogue of this race above petty fear mongering," said Rob Stutzman, Moore's campaign strategist. "He thinks voters aspire to better campaigns than that. And I assure you, this decorated infantryman is no liberal."

Meantime, McClintock is telling supporters it will require a full-blown and expensive campaign right through to November.

"There's good news," he wrote. The people in the 4th district know me and know where I stand, and I believe we will keep this seat as a conservative one."

PHOTO: Rep. Tom McClintock address the Northern California Tea Party Patriots at a rally Sept. 12, 2010 in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.



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