Late mail pieces unload accusations
Missouri House of Representatives candidate is accusing a Republican committee of a last-minute “smear campaign” using printed flyers that he said falsely accuse him of sexual misconduct and several DUIs.
The flyers are paid for by an entity known as the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC), Inc., which lists Kathie Conway as treasurer.
One of the printed flyers quote police saying Vic Abundis is “a danger to the community,” and accuses him of “multiple unwanted sexual advances, groping, and life-threatening recklessness.” The flyer continues, “We simply cannot trust this man.”
Abundis, a Democrat, faces Republican Sean Pouche in the District 13 House of Representatives race and said he first saw the flyers in the trash after they were discarded by residents at the apartment complex where he lives.
The Park Hill High School teacher admits to one DUI but said the flyer’s other accusations of multiple DUIs and sexual misconduct are false. He also claimed the following flyer statement is false: “With a rap sheet like this, it’s no wonder Victor Abundis wants to de-fund the police.”
Abundis said his one DUI, for which he paid a fine, conducted community service and served probation, does not constitute a “rap sheet” and he has never mentioned plans to de-fund the police.
A second flyer features a nude woman and focuses on additional accusations of sexual misconduct.
“No one has ever accused me of groping or making (unwanted) sexual advances,” Abundis said and asked, “How could I possibly still be a public servant who teaches if there was any truth to that?”
During a Monday afternoon telephone interview, Abundis described the second flyer as “despicable” and said he objects to the flyer’s claims that he is a danger to the community and should be taken off the streets. Abundis, who is Hispanic, said the claims smack of “the same old dirty politics” that he believes Donald Trump has been driving with his rhetoric about those who cross the U.S./Mexican border as being a danger and threat.
Abundis said the nude woman flyer includes that he should be “locked up” for his behavior and said the rhetoric, including his reported desire to de-fund the police smacks of “Trump-ism.” He said, “If you’re going to go after me, let’s get the facts straight.”
He added that because the HRCC would resort to “a malicious intent to smear my character, a desperate attempt in the ninth inning,” signals that committee members see him as a viable candidate with the capacity to win the seat. He said he has no plans to seek legal action based on the fliers’ contents.
Pouche said he “does not believe in negative campaigning,” was not responsible for producing the flyers and was not aware of them until he received a phone call from someone who lives in the district. He then received a copy of the first flyer in the mail and later saw a copy of the second flier.
The first flyer includes: “Paid for by House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC), Inc. Kathie Conway, Treasurer” and gives a post office box address in Jefferson City. Conway said during a Tuesday morning telephone interview from her home in the St. Louis area, that the group operates from a post office box in Jefferson City. Conway, a former state representative, last served in 2019 and said while she had not seen either flyer, the committee had distributed one similar to the first flier for a candidate in the St. Louis area and said she would not be surprised if the committee had used the same template for both races.
As treasurer of the HRCC, Conway said materials are required by state law to list her name under that of the committee, but she said she has nothing to do with the production of campaign materials.
“It’s my name and that’s what disturbs me,” she said and added that she planned to contact HRCC members to learn more. But Conway did not respond to follow-up calls by deadline.
Pouche said he also has seen the second flyer with the nude woman and said it states it was paid for by the HRCC, which did not reply by deadline to an email request for information.
A Missouri GOP spokesperson said she was not aware of the flyers and the GOP is a separate organization that is not responsible for producing campaign materials. Missouri Ethics Commissioner Liz Ziegler said the HRCC is considered a Political Action Committee (PAC) and political content is not regulated by any state agency and her office only is charged with investigating campaign finance issues.
The two-sided flyer features a photo of Pouche in his United States Navy uniform and calls his “a distinguished career in the military,” referencing his 2010 year-long stint in Iraq. A disclaimer at the bottom of the flyer states, “Use of military images is for illustration purposes only and does not constitute endorsement.” The flyer also refers to Pouche as “a local businessman,” which refers to his work delivering construction equipment for a rental business owned by his brother.
Abundis wondered if the HRCC was attacking him because he is Hispanic. Abundis said voters in the House district will see through such rhetoric and “reject racism.” He added that teachers refer to such life events as “teachable moments” and that is how he sees this election.
He added, “Win or lose, it’s been an interesting experience that I’ve learned from.”