Vince Gray‘s campaign sent out one of the odder blast emails of the election cycle so far this morning, claiming that rival Muriel Bowser‘s gone Tea Party.

“I never thought I’d see this in a Democratic election in the District of Columbia,” Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies wrote in the email, which includes pictures of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. “Muriel Bowser has taken a page out of the Tea Party’s playbook.”

Bowser’s misdeed? Calling Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal a “rich socialist,” a remark she first made in a December LL story that pops up again in this week’s profile of the restaurateur. 

“Bowser is doing exactly what right-wing conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and others have done to President [Barack] Obama,” Thies continues. “There is no place for Tea Party rhetoric in our Democratic Primary.”

Later in the email and in another press release, Thies writes that he hopes Bowser will apologize to Shallal. While Gray’s camp is looking for Bowser to make nice, though, Shallal’s team isn’t.

“It doesn’t even really matter to Andy,” says Shallal spokesman Dwight Kirk, who points out that Shallal didn’t say anything about Bowser’s quote when it first ran in December.

Kirk declined to say whether calling his boss a “rich socialist” was accurate. With an estimated net worth between $12 million and $15 million, though, Bowser was certainly right on the first part.

When LL reached him this afternoon, Bowser campaign manager Bo Shuff seemed delighted by the Gray email.

“The only thing that I really think it shows is that this is really a two-person race, and we’re the only other candidate they’re worried about,” Shuff says.

Worryingly, Thies’ email isn’t even the only example of outrage-fundraising this week. On Wednesday, Bowser’s campaign sent out an email after LL quoted Thies calling Gray’s rivals “smurfs.” Subject line: “Feeling blue?”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery