Rick Enstrom, House candidate, shocked rival Max Tyler calls paraphernalia-bust claim true

Colorado residents are no stranger to negative political campaigning. But even amid the onslaught of accusatory ads, one state House race boasts a back-and-forth battle that stands out, with one candidate being accused of having been arrested for selling cocaine paraphernalia -- 27 years ago. Rick Enstrom, the challenger in question, denies the allegation, while the incumbent, Max Tyler, calls the claim "demonstrably true."

A recent mailer from an outside group goes after Enstrom, a Republican running for the House seat in District 23, for allegedly selling cocaine paraphernalia 27 years ago, in February 1985. The ad doesn't come from Tyler, but the Democratic representative stops short of rejecting the accusations it makes.

Here's part of the attack mailer.

The mailer says that Enstrom was "arrested for selling cocaine paraphernalia out of his business." That included cocaine grinders, snort tubes, mirrors and razor blades, according to the mailer, which labels him the "nose-candy man" -- a reference to his family business, Enstrom's Candies. The attack, which date back to a time when Enstrom owned a Grand Junction record store, comes from the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance Independent Expenditure Committee, a liberal group.

(Disclosure: Tyler once worked as a typesetter for Westword, while The Latest Word editor Michael Roberts is a longtime friend of Enstrom's who worked at the Grand Junction record store prior to the 1985 incident.)

Enstrom says the ad is absurd and denies that he was ever arrested.

"It was very sensational and it was almost a third of a century ago, and I think what the citizens of the state of Colorado want to talk about right now are issues that are important," he says. "And this isn't."

Enstrom says his case was "dismissed with prejudice" by a judge and that the store was issued a summons while he was owner. He has a letter from the district attorney at the time, on view below, stating just that. And Enstrom's attorney has sent a cease and desist letter, also on view below, which says the mailers contain "false and defamatory statements." As noted by the Denver Post, Enstrom does not have an arrest record according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Still, Tyler, who says he had nothing to do with the attack, backs the facts as spelled out in the mailer. He e-mailed us this statement:

I'm focused on communicating with voters of House District 23 based on my three years of service in the district and my goals for the next session to create jobs and support education. Under campaign finance laws I am not allowed to communicate or coordinate with any outside groups.

I do think it's absurd that the same side that has spent over $150,000 on a TV campaign to distort my record and my concerns for kids is having a fainting spell over one mail piece that is demonstrably true.

When told about these comments, Enstrom says he is shocked, given that he has what he feels is such clear proof that the ad is false.

Continue for Enstrom's response and full documents in the case.

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin

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