The mud is flying in state Assembly 3rd District race | TheUnion.com
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The mud is flying in state Assembly 3rd District race

In 1991, 14-year-old Misty DeHart said she was riding her bicycle in Chico when Dan Ostrander clipped her from behind with his Mercedes, breaking the girl’s leg and giving her a concussion.

Ostrander blamed the girl for swerving into him and wanted DeHart’s parents to pay for damage to the Mercedes.

The investigating Chico police officer concluded in the accident report the collision occurred as a result of an unsafe turning movement by DeHart.



That bit of history had new life breathed into it this week, in what’s turning out to be a mudslinging Republican primary battle between Ostrander and Rick Keene, two Chico men vying for the seat in the 3rd Assembly District, which includes Nevada County.

Keene said he knew of the accident months ago because DeHart attends his church. He said he didn’t want to release the information about that or several other Ostrander legal battles because “I’ve been trying to … focus on the issues.”




But the gloves came off, Keene said, after Ostrander went on the attack several weeks ago, among other things releasing a mailer that said Keene was a personal-injury lawyer.

The mailer said Keene has “defended welfare cheats, a man who assaulted a deputy sheriff, drunk drivers (even) a repeat child molester – requesting probation so his client could continue walking the streets.”

Keene fired back Feb. 21 with a letter sent to “fellow Republicans,” which said Ostrander was correct in saying Keene was an attorney who has handled criminal cases.

“He implies that disqualifies me from office,” Keene’s letter read. “But by Dan’s standard, Abraham Lincoln would not have been allowed to hold public office, because he also did criminal cases before becoming president.”

Keene’s letter goes on to say that in the past decade, Ostrander has sued people 17 times and has been sued 10 times, including suing DeHart for “damaging” his Mercedes. The letter says that criminal charges were filed against Ostrander for failing to obey city building laws and for illegally taking public property in an alley that didn’t belong to

him; that he sued to prevent a neighbor from selling property; and that he sued to defend himself against charges of causing a “wrongful death.”

The last charge ticked off the Ostrander campaign.

In response to Keene’s Feb. 21 letter, Ostrander’s attorney Donald Blake Jr. of Oroville wrote the State Bar of California, charging that Keene had made false statements while trying to get elected as assemblyman.

Blake wrote that the wrongful death case referred to in Keene’s letter was actually a slip-and-fall. Keene violated one of the bar’s rules and should be formally investigated, he wrote.

To justify his letter, Keene faxed The Union a copy of a 1989 lawsuit against Ostrander and Southern Pacific Railroad filed on behalf of a 19-year-old man who was hit and killed by a train. The teen lived in an apartment owned by Ostrander that had a walkway leading to the railroad track.

Keene said he mentioned the case to show that “Ostrander has used lawyers more than most people. I’m not making the claim that he was guilty.”

Ostrander then sent a press release saying he’d be available Thursday afternoon by phone, but the number was busy during repeated attempts to reach him.

The battle between the two men has reached the editorial page of their hometown newspaper, the Chico Enterprise-Record.

On Wednesday, the paper published a letter written by bicycle accident victim DeHart, now a grown woman. She wrote that Ostrander “didn’t even call the girl he accidentally injured. I’ve never met Ostrander, but I will always have my battle scars from my encounter with him.”


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