Fear and loathing in Congressional District 13

I received the following e-mail from Forest Baker – the Republican nominee challenging Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 13th Congressional District – this afternoon, apparently copied from his Facebook page:

Forest BakerThis is a serious matter. I’ve waited a few days until after I spoke with local Republican Party leaders, the California GOP and the San Francisco Field Office of the FBI so that we should understand fully what’s been going on, who has been doing this stuff and what should be done about it. On Saturday, September 25th a large group of campaign workers from the Fremont Tea Party supporting a write-in campaign seeking to spoil the election of the Republican Candidate for the US Congress from District 13 in Alameda County (me) intruded into our sidewalk Rally in Union City and attempted to disrupt that event. I instructed our people not to be drawn into any arguments with these people and not to respond to or retaliate against any of their provocations…and their abusive behavior went on for 4 solid hours.

At the end of our Rally an individual known to us assaulted one of our older men who happens to be on the Alameda County GOP Central Committee. This attacker is the same heavily built individual who pushed and shoved one of our older friends (a woman) on May 24th at a Conservative Forum discussion group that I chaired. He works closely with the leader of the Fremont Tea Party, we have written evidence of this, they planned and executed that action in support of my Republican Primary opponent (who lost to me several days later) in an attempt to break up our meeting by having the police summoned. Indeed, in both cases the man shouted exactly the same words “This is America. I can do anything I want. If you don’t like it then call the police!”

Apparently the FBI agrees with him that simple assault at a political event, even when planned and coordinated in advance does not constitute a federal crime. The local police might be called, but if there are no clinically significant injuries then nothing much will happen. However, a shoving match would substantially change the nature of such a rally or meeting and that is precisely the motivation of the Fremont Tea Party…to disrupt my campaign rallies and to spoil my election events with violence if necessary. This particular attacker was very careful not to actually strike me. He pushed the person standing next to me very hard instead. A pattern of such assaults has been established now, documented and reported. If someone does get hurt as a result of more such assaults then everyone will know in advance who is responsible.

Although the Fremont Tea Party is not a legitimate GOP entity a number of local Republicans and Alameda GOP Central Committee members worked closely with them during the Primary in support of their candidate. That gentleman has recently removed himself from the Alameda Central Committee and although he is not assisting with my campaign, he is not openly opposing me as of now. Many of these folks are understandably still disgruntled that I won in June but that does not excuse their support for a non-Republican Tea Party write-in spoiler. If these Republicans find that they cannot behave appropriately regarding their own candidates then they should simply leave the GOP. Really. It might not be a prosecutable crime to commit simple assault during a political event, in order to be disruptive and hoping to provoke something more serious…but we all know that it is very wrong.

Politics can be a full contact sport. Like Football, perhaps. We know that. I don’t mind really. I played my share of Football and I hit hard. But when political thugs attack 60 year-old men and 70 year-old women, then the only word for that behavior is despicable. These are not good Americans seeking to improve our government by electing better politicians. These are venal anarchists amusing their weak egos, playing at politics, committing acts of personal cowardice and hiding behind the thin veil of the Tea Party movement. There are, of course, nations in the world where people are expected to act like that during elections. But this isn’t one of them. This is America. Love it or Leave it. The border is right there.

But Fremont Tea Party organizer John Guerrero says Baker is mistaken. “I already know who was there: It wasn’t the Fremont Tea Party, it was Chris Pareja’s people.”

Chris Pareja of Hayward is running as a write-in candidate in the 13th Congressional District, having failed to gather enough petition signatures to get on next month’s ballot as an independent candidate; he’s trying to attract conservatives who aren’t satisfied with Baker’s degree of conservatism.

“He and his people actually crashed one of my meetings, disrupted it and got into a screaming match … He’s caused me no end to grief for the last six months,” Guererro said of Pareja. “They’re just looking for a fight, that’s all.”

At Guerrero’s advice, I looked on the Pareja campaign’s Facebook page and found this statement that the candidate posted Wednesday:

I am sorry for being late saying thank you to all of you that showed up for Forest Baker’s “rally” on Saturday. THANK YOU! If we hadn’t shown up, he would have been there by himself, and that is no way to hold a rally. Luckily, he was able to call in for support from all his friends in San Jose. If it weren’t for you, there would have been no attendees from the district. GOOD JOB!

Pareja told me this afternoon that Baker’s accusation, in addition to being misdirected, is “completely unfounded.”

Chris Pareja“Abusive behavior? I went and bought water for him and his entire team because it was a hot day,” Pareja said, acknowledging the 15 or so supporters he brought last Saturday did dominate the four corners of the intersection where the event was held but “we were friendly with” Baker’s people. “There have never been any physical confrontations with his team or with mine that I’m aware of.”

Pareja said he and his supporters went to Baker’s event in the first place because Baker had billed it as a rally “to end political racism” to which he’d invited Stark; Pareja said he believed the open-to-the-public invitation encompassed him as a candidate, too.

As for the Fremont Tea Party, Pareja said, “I get along with a lot of the Tea Party members but John (Guerrero) and I have a personal disagreement.”

Guerrero said he thinks Baker probably assumed, based on some e-mail correspondence that Guerrero forwarded to him from a Pareja supporter earlier this year, that this supporter was a Fremont Tea Party activist, too; he’s not. As for Baker’s claim of what went down last Saturday, “that’s not how we work,” Guerrero said. “About the most outrageous thing we might do is have four or five people holding a sign up on an overpass.”

And he said that aversion to militant confrontation has made him some enemies among Pareja’s supporters as well as among the Tri-City Tea Party Patriots and Golden Gate Minutemen, who are supporting Pareja’s candidacy. The Fremont Tea Party has endorsed nobody in this race, Guerrero said – “We don’t particularly care for Forest, we won’t do anything against him but we won’t do anything for him, either – and is concentrating its resources instead on helping Republican nominee David Harmer beat Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in the much more competitive 11th Congressional District.

Says Baker, “I have lots and lots of John Guerrero notes to me and many more to his inside crew that he does not know I have. He enjoys zero denyability [sic] regarding his hand in all of this. We have not scratched the surface of this unholy iceberg.”

I’ll give the final word here to Alameda County Republican Central Committee Chairman John Wyrwas, who said:

The voters in the June Republican Primary selected Forest Baker as their candidate for CD-13. We have invited Mr. Baker to our campaign events, and he is listed as the Republican candidate for CD-13 on our literature. The Alameda County Republican Party would like to see Pete Stark be defeated in November. With regard to this latest email, I have no knowledge of what Mr. Baker is talking about.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.