A series of negative attack mailers slammed Clermont Republican Taylor Yarkosky as he ran for a House seat. Dredging up drunk driving arrests and business dealings from his youth, criticism has stepped up in the run-up to the Aug. 23 GOP Primary.
Now, Yarkosky is pushing back, saying Christian values helped right the course of his life years ago. And he’s marshaling prominent supporters to testify to his character.
A mass mailer from Lake County Conservatives, a political committee chaired by Yarkosky, addresses criticisms head-on.
“I have nothing to hide,” Yarkosky tells voters. “In my younger years, I had ups and downs in business and my personal life. I lost a company and a marriage. I drank too much and I made mistakes. But I am not running from my past.
“I believe these are the storms of life that God allowed me to have to forge me into a better man and prepare me for a more important mission of service. I am blessed to have built another successful company that is booming thanks to God’s grace, good people and sound public policy.”
The message to voters comes after two organizations barraged Lake County mailboxes with opposition research about Yarkosky. That includes spotlighting arrests in 2004 and 2005 for driving under the influence. It also hits him for a donation made to Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
The mailers have come from American Future Fund, an Iowa-based group that does not appear to be reporting any information with the Division of Elections, and Making a Better Tomorrow, a state committee funded by business interests and chaired by prominent Republican Treasurer Eric Robinson.
In his own piece, Yarkosky describes his own pathway to sobriety.
“It is true that I drank too much when I was younger,” he wrote. “I was arrested in 2004 and 2005 for driving under the influence. I was in my 20s then, living fast and making mistakes. I am grateful to God that I did not hurt anyone in those days, and I regret my choices that put others in danger. However, I am also thankful to God for the challenges he let me experience in my personal life due to alcohol use because I wouldn’t be sober today if I hadn’t gone through those things. Now, at 45 years old, married with five children, I haven’t had a drink in years.”
The Obama donation, he said, was done in the interest of a startup business.
“In my early 30s, I worked hard and hustled to build a company. Obama came to Orlando for a fundraiser hosted by some guys helping our business at the time. They asked me to attend the event and write a check to help them ‘bundle money.’ Was it a mistake? Sure it was,” he wrote.
“But I wasn’t thinking about that then. I was thinking about building my company and networking. We contributed to that event but never voted for or agreed with Obama.”
Beyond the mea culpa mailer, Yarkosky’s allies have also rushed to his defense. The latest campaign piece notes endorsements from Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell and State Attorney Bill Gladson. Grinnell issued a lengthy statement defending Yarkosky.
“Taylor Yarkosky has been viciously attacked in this race for State Representative because he is a strong conservative leader who is speaking his mind and denouncing the woke corporations and liberal special interests who want to infect our communities and brainwash our children with their radical ideas,” Grinnell said.
“Please pay them no mind. Taylor Yarkosky is a man of strong character and integrity who has never feared confronting his youthful mistakes head-on. Taylor would tell you that his mistakes are what forged him into the honorable man of integrity he is today.”
Additionally, the Lake County Conservatives committee released a joint statement from other prominent elected officials backing Yarkosky’s campaign: Lake County Property Appraiser and former state Sen. Carey Baker, Lake County Tax Collector David Jordan and Lake County Commissioners Leslie Campione and Sean Parks.
“His conservative principles, Christian values, and commitment to faith and freedom are the principles important to Lake County’s voters. That’s exactly why these groups are smearing him. They don’t share our values,” the joint statement reads.
“Taylor is forthright about who he is and he’s not afraid to shoot Lake County’s voters straight. That’s why he is so open about his mistakes as a younger man and stands tall and proud of overcoming them. He should be proud. This honesty and integrity he displays should demonstrate to voters his character and give them confidence that he will be a dependable conservative leader for Lake County.”
Yarkosky is in a GOP Primary set for Aug. 23 in state House District 25. He faces Liz Cornell, along with Matthew Silbernagel and Tom Vail.