Challenger accuses Rep. Hunter of dodging early debates; Hunter wants to wait until Congress is in recess--after absentee ballots have been mailed
By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2010 (El Cajon) – In the 52nd Congressional District, Democratic candidate Ray Lutz is dishing up a new campaign tactic: a hunger strike. He hopes to convince Rep. Duncan D. Hunter to participate in a series of debates before absentee voting by mail begins. “Until Hunter steps up to the plate, I’ll be stepping away from the dinner plate,” Lutz said in a press release.
He added, “Starting this Thursday, August 12, I will refuse to eat until he agrees to debate. I hope my sacrifice will make him realize the community expects him to take their issues seriously.”
Supporters will join Lutz at a “Hungry for Accountability in Congress” effort that starts Friday at the grand reopening of Promenade Park next to Lutz campaign headquarters. Libertarian candidate Michael Benoit announced tonight that he will be on hand to join in the hunger strike and urge Hunter to engage in early debates.
The Lutz campaign said it hand-delivered two letters to the Hunter office requesting a series of eight debates in communities throughout the district. Attempts to videotape the delivery were met with “malice, verbal abuse and expulsion,” the press release announcing the hunger strike stated.
Asked for reaction to the Lutz announcement, Hunter campaign spokesman Dave Gilliard quipped, “We hope someone sneaks him a Twinkie.”
He added that the summer recess for Congressional members has been cancelled and said the Congressman has been called back to Washington until early October. “We’ve already told him [Lutz] that we would debate in October when Congress is out of session.” Session could extend into the first several days of October, Gilliard noted.
In his first run for office, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, son of retiring Congressman Duncan Hunter, did engage in at least five debates with then-opponent Mike Lumpkin, all in October 2008.
But Lutz contends that October is too late for a growing number of voters, since over 60% in San Diego County cast absentee ballots by mail in the most recent election. Absentee voters may begin casting votes as early as October 4th, before a Hunter-Lutz could occur under Hunter’s scenario.
Some local representatives have engaged in earlier debates in the past. Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego) debated Democrat Francine Busby on September 6 in a recent election. Nor is returning during session an impossible feat, although it may be tiring. Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) has been spotted in his district some weekends during the Congressional session.
“Hunter obviously has no respect for the democratic process,”Lutz said. “But, to be fair, his votes prove he has no respect for seniors, the unemployed, small business owners, tribal rape victims or anyone who has been stomped on by our healthcare system.”
Hunter’s office has defended his votes on these measures, citing costs and additional concerns.
Jim Bates, former Congressman, Supervisor and Councilmember called Lutz a “fighter”, noting that “He’s proving his dedication right now, like he proved it in his fight against Blackwater and in working to keep local government honest.”
Lutz organized Citizens Oversight Projects (COPs), a citizens’ watchdog group to expose waste, fraud and abuse by local governmental bodies. He has also been a leader in fighting to keep Blackwater and Sunrise Powerlink out of East County.
Lutz, who holds a masters degree in engineering from San Diego State University, has called for a “green Manhattan Project” to create solar manufacturing facilities across America, including in East County, to create jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
Lutz plans to blog, twitter and post YouTube updates on his hunger strike, during which he will be stationed in an “isolation booth” during daytime hours. He encourages supporters to “sign up to take a few pounds off , engage in at least one day of hunger strike” to show support. Supporters nationwide are encouraged to take money that they save on food by fasting for a day and donate it to the Lutz campaign at www.voteraylutz.com.
While getting media coverage has always been difficult for challengers in the heavily-Republican 52nd Congressional District, Lutz says he’s had calls from local and national media outlets as a result of his hunger strike protest. “This is working very well,” he concluded in an e-mail this evening.