Assemblyman Voepel Accused of ‘Stolen Valor’ by GOP Rival, Navy Veteran

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Republican Larry Wilske, on KUSI's
Republican Larry Wilske, on KUSI’s “Good Morning San Diego.” Image via

Updated at 12:18 p.m. April 16, 2018

Republican Assemblyman Randy Voepel is taking heavy flak from a GOP rival, who along with another Navy veteran is accusing the former Santee mayor of “Stolen Valor.”

Assemblyman Randy Voepel

Monday morning on KUSI TV, 30-year Navy SEAL veteran Larry Wilske brought up claims by retired Master Chief Petty Officer Terence Hoey* that Voepel misrepresented his military service record.

Candidate Wilske said the 71st Assembly District incumbent has boasted he was awarded a Purple Heart, a combat action ribbon and “served in the jungles of Vietnam.”

“None of that is true,” Wilske said. “That’s a real slap in the face of people who also served honorably and those who were left behind.”

Such claims — lying about one’s service record — are against state and federal law and can lead to removal from office.

Hours before Hoey was scheduled to detail his evidence at a Monday afternoon press conference in front of the USS Midway Museum, Voepel chief of staff Mason Herron sent Times of San Diego an image of Voepel’s discharge papers indicating he had several honors, including one for “combat action.”

A Purple Heart — denoting being wounded or killed while in action — isn’t listed.

But Herron said Voepel, finishing his first term after succeeding fellow Santeean Brian Jones, has never claimed to have earned a Purple Heart —”either in prior campaign materials, interviews, news stories, etc.”

Herron said Voepel won’t respond to Hoey’s accusations, first made online March 29 in a blog called thisainthell.

“Basically what we have is a political opponent lobbing either false or noncredible accusations in an effort to gain traction for his own campaign,” Herron said via email.

Terence Hoey as pictured on his LinkedIIn page.
Terence Hoey as pictured on his LinkedIn page.

“The previous allegations either aren’t sourced from anything (simple quotes on a blog that are unattributed) or are contradicted by the Assemblyman’s own paperwork.”

Herron said that when accusers are shown paperwork cited by Hoey they called it a forgery.

“I’ve spoken to other reporters who have performed their own individual investigations and confirmed Randy’s records are consistent with his paperwork,” Herron said. “Mr. Voepel served on the USS Buchanan, including during the 1972 Easter Offensive, when the ship came under fire and the entire crew was awarded with the Combat Action Ribbon.”

In his posts — including one on LinkedIn — Hoey called Voepel a “marginally adequate sailor at best and served for a brief period onboard the great ship USS Buchanan.”

Hoey said Voepel served less time at sea “than I did cleaning steam and water drums in 1200 psi D-Type propulsion boilers and standing in the chow line waiting for my daily dose of SOS.”

Voepel, according to Hoey, falsely claims he earned a combat action ribbon. (A photo of Voepel giving thumbs up while wearing the ribbon was posted.)

Hoey also said Voepel asserts to have been trained by the Viet Cong — South Vietnam’s enemy — and spent time in the jungles of Vietnam — claims that Hoey calls “equal disgusting and comedy gold.”

Mason Herron is Assemblyman Randy Voepel's chief of staff.
Mason Herron is Assemblyman Randy Voepel’s chief of staff. Image via

Voepel spokesman Herron said that if something new emerges from the press conference that needs to be addressed, “we will consider that. But it’s my sense they are only going to reiterate the charges they’ve already put forth.”

Sunday on San Diego Rostra, a conservative blog, Brian Brady posted word of the Hoey news conference.

“I asked Mason Herron about Mr. Hoey’s accusations six days ago,” Brady wrote. “Mr Herron offered to let me see Assemblyman Voepel’s military separation paperwork but has ignored my follow-up questions and request for a meeting.”

Online comments seemed to take Hoey’s side, with “Graybeard” posting: “To call California Assemblyman Randy Voepel a liar and an organic byproduct of the digestive process would an insult to liars and outhouses everywhere.”

Also challenging Voepel in the sprawling — and heavily Republican — East County district is Democrat James Elia, an accountant who seeks a state bank whose revenues would fund universal health care.

Elia, who didn’t serve in the military, told Times of San Diego: “I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the military and those who have served, including both Mr. Wilske and Mr. Voepel. The whole situation seems unfortunate. I hope Randy is given an opportunity to defend himself.

“I am far more concerned about ensuring California’s 71st constituents have adequate healthcare, good paying jobs, and can afford their rent and mortgages than I am about any particular candidates’ backgrounds.”

Wilske ran for Congress in 2014, losing to incumbent Democrat Susan Davis by 14 percentage points.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Hoey as Hoe.

Assemblyman Voepel Accused of ‘Stolen Valor’ by GOP Rival, Navy Veteran was last modified: April 16th, 2018 by Ken Stone

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