Vet accused by political rival of misleading voters on Iraq record

Shown here is California congressional candidate Paul Chabot.

Shown here is California congressional candidate Paul Chabot.

A California congressional candidate is being accused by one of his GOP primary rivals of misleading voters over his service record, by saying he missed votes because he was deployed in Iraq – though records show he was in California at the time.

Paul Chabot, running in California’s 31st congressional district, had been accused earlier by primary foe Sean Flynn of abstaining from important votes while serving on the California Parole Board, with Flynn branding him “no show Chabot.”

“While on the California State parole board, Paul Chabot refused to vote to keep violent offenders behind bars,” a Flynn campaign mailer said. “But he never missed a payday.”

The mailer said Chabot abstained on votes for parole for offenders accused of a range of crimes, while still getting paid for serving on the board. 

Chabot responded furiously to the mailer on Facebook, saying he missed the votes because he was deployed in Iraq.

Taking aim at a post from Flynn over the Memorial Day weekend, Chabot accused Flynn of “pretending to be a patriot, just like he’s pretending to be a Republican.” Chabot blasted Flynn for taking pictures at a military cemetery “just days after attacking me -- a combat veteran - for votes I missed because I was deployed to Iraq.”

Chabot did serve in Iraq. However, minutes from the August 2009 board meeting in question show that Chabot was in attendance, having returned from deployment months earlier in 2008. The record shows him in attendance and abstaining on the parole requests, while voting in the affirmative for other cases.

Flynn, in response, accused Chabot of trying to mislead voters.

"When you run for office, you are asking for the public's trust. You are expected to live by the highest possible standard of integrity and honesty. That's why it's all the more surprising and disappointing that someone with a record of military service like Paul Chabot would try to mislead voters about his own record,” Flynn said in a statement.

He called for Chabot to offer "a reasonable explanation of why he claimed he was serving in Iraq during a period of time when official government records show that he clearly wasn't." 

Chabot later clarified to The Press Enterprise, saying Tuesday that having returned to the country a year before, he wasn’t knowledgeable on the cases in question at the time of the votes.

“The right and ethical thing for me to do was for me to abstain,” Chabot told the outlet. “I have one of the toughest records on the California state parole board.” 

Chabot’s campaign also hit back with a mailer of its own, accusing Flynn of failing to vote in recent presidential and mid-term elections while saying Chabot  was “under months of medical care in military hospitals and delayed care in the VA” when he returned from Iraq.  

A statement from senior strategist John Thomas said, "Afterwards Chabot was re-appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger as Commissioner to the California State Parole Board and Chabot rightfully abstained from voting on cases which he had no knowledge of because of his absence recovering in military hospitals."

He went on to call Flynn’s ads “absolutely shocking and repulsive.”

The candidate, while serving in Iraq, was an intelligence officer with Joint Special Operations Forces. He has served in numerous roles in the U.S. military, starting his career at the Office of Naval Intelligence. Currently, he is a lieutenant commander with Command Pacific Fleet Intelligence Reserve Unit – 0194, according to his campaign bio.'s Adam Shaw and Judson Berger contributed to this report.