Democratic congressional candidate Gil Cisneros Friday threatened legal action against an online news organization and a rival for the House of Representatives in the 39th District for the publication of a voicemail they alleged was Cisneros vowing to “go negative.”

Democrat Andy Thorburn said he received a voicemail from Cisneros recently with the message, “Hi, Andy, it’s Gil Cisneros. I’m gonna go negative on you.”

The Cisneros campaign issued a cease and desist letter to Intercept.com demanding the story, headlined “Democratic Party-Backed Candidate Leaves Groggy Voicemail Warning for Opponent: `I’m Gonna Go Negative on You,”’ be removed from the website.

The campaign claims Cisernos did not place the call and that it was not his voice in the message.

“The story is false, defamatory, and places Mr. Cisneros in a false light, and we demand that you immediately remove it from your website,” Attorney Andrew Werbrock wrote in the letter to Intercept.com.

Cisneros’ campaign also complained the news organization “brazenly ignored Mr. Cisneros’ campaign’s categorical denial authenticity of the voicemail, publishing the story anyway,” Webrock wrote in the letter.

Thorburn said his wife was the first to hear the message and was “shook up” by it.

“I’m not sure what their point is,” Thorburn said. “It was a recording on my phone and it says what it says. I’m not sure what they want me to do.”

If it wasn’t Cisneros, Thorburn said, then it was someone who “must’ve known he was going to go negative.”

Tensions among Democrats in the 39th District and elsewhere in other congressional districts of Orange County have heightened as party bosses fear there are too many candidates, which may allow for Republicans only to make it to a runoff in the general election.

This week, Cisneros issued a news release claiming a recent poll shows him in the lead with 19 percent of the vote, trailed by Republican Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson at 13 percent, former GOP state Sen. Bob Huff at 12 percent, incumbent Rep. Ed Royce aide and former Assemblywoman Young Kim at 11 percent. Thorburn, according to the poll, was at 10 percent.

Thorburn, however, said his campaign did a more recent poll showing him with a “slight lead” among nearly all of the candidates.

“His numbers are almost identical to our numbers except for his,” Thorburn said.

In Thorburn’s poll Kim was in the lead, he said.

Jeff LeTourneau, vice chairman of north Orange County for the Democratic Party, said party leaders met with all of the Democrats in the 39th District and asked them to consider whether they had a realistic shot at making the runoff.

The goal was to “marshal everyone behind the one with the most likely chance to win,” LeTourneau said.

One of those candidates, Jay Chen, dropped out, LeTourneau said.

“He did the right thing and dropped out, and he pledged to support the final candidate after the primary,” LeTourneau said.

Then another Democrat, Phil Janowicz, dropped out, LeTourneau noted.

“It was the hardest decision he’s ever made,” LeTourneau said. “But there was no path to victory.”

For years, Democrats have struggled to field candidates, but opposition to President Donald Trump has fueled enthusiasm among Democrats, LeTourneau said.

“We have an abundance of riches that would be a good thing in a partisan primary, but with the top two (process) it becomes exactly the opposite,” LeTourneau said.

“I think we’ve thinned the field as much as it can be,” he said.

There are also some ruffled feathers over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee endorsing Cisneros, LeTourneau said. For the first time, the Washington, D.C., organization has sent representatives to Orange County to help Democrats win seats here.

“It’s causing a huge backlash of resentment,” LeTourneau said. “The DCCC, you got us in this mess by over-recruiting candidates and not understanding the implications of what you’re doing, and now all of a sudden they’re putting a thumb on the scale for one candidate over another but, to tell the other side, there are people realizing if they’re not doing it themselves then someone has to come in and winnow the field and push someone else over the line… On the far left it is not playing well.”

Democrats have turned their attention now to voter turnout, he said.

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