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‘Sue me,’ says Nunes challenger. He’ll help raise money for constituents in lawsuit

A challenger to Devin Nunes will help raise money for a legal defense fund for the residents being sued by the Republican congressman’s campaign.

A handful of lawyers already have reached out and offered to represent the defendants as well.

Phil Arballo, a small business owner in Fresno, called Nunes “a D.C. hack” during a news conference Tuesday in front of Nunes’ office in Clovis.

“Last week was the first week of the Congressional summer recess, and rather than coming back to his district, holding town halls and meeting his constituents face-to-face to talk about the issues that matter to them, like healthcare, good paying jobs, clean air and clean water, our representative has chosen a different path,” said Arballo, who announced in June he’s running against the Tulare Republican.

“Instead, he has filed lawsuits against his own constituents. Let me repeat: A sitting member of Congress is suing his own constituents. This is outrageous. Rep. Nunes is unhinged.”

Arballo, a Democrat, said he stands with the constituents hit by the lawsuit. “If you want to sue someone, sue me,” he said.

Nunes’ campaign filed the latest in a string of lawsuits last week in Tulare County Superior Court targeting three Fresno County residents and a Southern California man. The campaign alleges Dinuba farmer Paul Buxman, Central Valley Partnership’s executive director Daniel O’Connell and Reedley author and librarian Hope Nisly conspired with super PACs and “dark money” in their effort to change his ballot designation from farmer.

Buxman initially said he likely wouldn’t hire a lawyer, but by Tuesday he was warming up to the idea. “I appreciate people that are stepping forward to help me to negotiate a territory that I’m not familiar with,” he said.

Although he’s never met Arballo, Buxman said he’s grateful for people offering to help raise money, too.

“If somebody would like to help, I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “I suppose I need to know more about him (Arballo) before I could accept. Well, money is money, but I’d like to know where it’s coming from.

“I’m getting to understand Devin and this whole thing about dark money,” Buxman said, chuckling.

Arballo said his campaign and lawyers will work out the details for the legal defense fund this week.

He was joined at his news conference by protesters who have gathered outside of Nunes’ office once a week for about two years. The group calls itself “The Watch.”

Patty Cappelluti was one of the protesters. She held a sign that read “Devin is an udder twit. #DoButter,” referring to Nunes’ other lawsuits against Twitter and the Twitter user @DevinCow.

“I feel they’re unnecessary,” she said about the lawsuits. “He’s trying to intimidate folks to not speak out against him.”

If she got the chance to talk to her congressman, she said she’d ask him about what he’s doing for his district.

Nunes’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.
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