RIVERBANK -- Mayor Virginia Madueño is fighting accusations that she does not know that absentee ballots count just as much as votes cast at the polls.
She is running for re-election against Councilman Richard O'Brien, and the accusations were made by Chip Langman, O'Brien's campaign consultant.
Langman commented last week on O'Brien's campaign Web site that Madueño did not know absentee ballots are counted.
The issue came to light Sept. 30 in Bee Opinions Editor Judy Sly's column. Sly wrote about a post on Madueño's campaign Facebook page that said absentee ballots are not counted and urged people to vote Nov. 6 at the polls.
Madueño and her campaign chief suggested to Sly that the Facebook page had been hacked. Sly wrote that the post more likely was an error by an ill-informed supporter. Either way, the campaign immediately removed the misinformation.
But the controversy did not die. Langman linked to Sly's column on O'Brien's campaign Web site and added his comments about the issue. Langman removed the comments Friday after receiving a letter from Modesto attorney Geoff Hutcheson, who represents Madueño.
Langman declined to discuss Monday what he wrote on O'Brien's Web site or to release a copy of Hutcheson's letter.
"I'm not interested in making a mountain out of a molehill," he said. "They asked us to take it down, so we did."
Hutcheson said Langman crossed a line by stating as a fact that Madueño did not know the law regarding absentee balloting. Hutcheson said Langman and Madueño have long histories in politics and Langman should have known better.
Langman said he knows the law regarding absentee voting but would not presume to say what someone else does or does not know.
O'Brien declined to comment at length, saying the issue was between Langman and Hutcheson. But he said he did not believe Langman misstated anything. He also got a dig in regarding Madueño and her campaign chief's belief that someone hacked their Facebook page.
"If it was hacked," he said, "I hope the police are after it (investigating) because it was a major misdirection."
Madueño did not respond to requests for comment or a copy of the letter. Hutcheson and O'Brien also declined to provide a copy of the letter.
But the two candidates for mayor will get a chance to talk about the issue Thursday during a candidate forum at the Community Center starting at 6 p.m.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.