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Rep. Jim Gerlach’s (R) opponent might want to have his people call the Congressman’s people.

When businessman Bob Roggio (D) charged Gerlach with missing key recent votes on the farm and strategic oil reserve bills, the targeted Congressman quickly fired back saying he missed the votes because he was attending his mother’s funeral.

Roggio released a statement Monday afternoon saying, “It is a shame that Jim Gerlach doesn’t show up and work to find solutions to the problems that plague district residents day after day. … The last thing we need are leaders who skip work.”

However, Gerlach responded to Roggio in a letter Tuesday evening saying that he was in Clarion with his 79-year-old mother until she died last week. Roggio’s campaign aides said that as soon as they heard about Helen Gerlach’s death, they issued a statement Monday evening.

“We wish to offer our deepest condolences to Jim Gerlach and his family on his mother’s passing,” read the statement from both Roggio and his staff.

According to Gerlach’s spokesman, Mark Campbell, the Congressman was personally offended because neither Roggio nor his staff apologized to him and instead just posted their brief condolences on the campaign Web site.

“It is my understanding that, after your initial attack release and acquiring a knowledge of why I didn’t attend session last week, you issued a second release that contained no apology for your attack or even a simple acknowledgement that you were wrong to attack me under these circumstances,” Gerlach wrote in a letter. “Consequently, given your behavior, I would encourage you to re-examine exactly why you are running for public office and whether you have the judgment to properly represent the great Sixth Congressional District.”

Roggio’s campaign said he wrote a personal letter to Gerlach Tuesday afternoon.

— Shira Toeplitz

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