Candidates are “hungry for debate” with Rep. Duncan Hunter
East County News Service
August 22, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) –Ten days into a hunger strike, Democratic Congressional candidate Ray Lutz has become the topic of national news coverage, including an interview Thursday on CNN . Lutz and Libertarian candidate Michael Benoit are holding the hunger strike to draw attention to Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) refusing to debate them until after absentee ballot voting has begun. In San Diego, 60% of voters cast absentee ballots last election.
At Friday night’s “Politics in Paradise”, the two candidates joined dozens of supporters in a protest outside the event where Hunter and other elected officials participated in a public forum, but challenger candidates were not included. Hunter has claimed his legislative schedule precludes him from returning to his district for a debate prior to October.
“It’s a very sad commentary about our democracy when we don’t get to have debates for the voters unless somebody goes on a hunger strike,” said Lutz on CNN. He has lost 14 pounds and skipped 19 meals. Lutz and Benoit argue that debates should occur before absentee ballots are mailed in early October, since 60% of San Diegans voted by mail in the last election.
In a press conference outside, Lutz announced the launch of www.DebateforDemocracy.org, an new site that aims to encourage Congressional candidates across America to engage in debates. He also talked with reporters about the issues he would like to debate. “My main issue is about jobs,” said Lutz, who wants to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and instead invest in manufacturing 500,000 solar panels across the U.S., including here in East County, to create jobs. He called Hunter’s policies “more of the Bush doctrine”, noting that the wars have drained down the U.S. treasury and contributed to the nation’s deficit.
“I’m feeling pretty good, though I’m hungry for debate,” said Benoit, who is running on a Libertarian platform of smaller government and spending reductions while respecting personal liberties.
The candidates’ hunger strike has been picked up nationally by Newsweek, the New York Times, AOL News, the Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, and a blog on comedian Jon Stewart’s Daily Show website.
At the event, Lutz hand-delivered a letter to Hunter requesting a series of debates.
Hunter’s office told East County Magazine last week that Hunter would debate in October, but that he could not debate sooner because Congress was in session. Although Speaker Pelosi called Congress back to Washington briefly for a key vote, Congress has since adjourned again, ECM has learned. Congress Bob Filner has announced numerous appearances in his San Diego district during August.
East County Magazine left a message several days ago asking the Hunter campaign why his office stated that the legislative session precluded him debating in August or September--and whether he would not be available to debate since Congress has adjourned. Hunter’s office did not return the call.
Barry Jantz, moderator of the “Politics in Paradise” event sponsored by the East County Chamber of Commerce (which included a generous spread of appetizers and desserts), thanked the two candidates for “keeping our costs down” by not eating.