Rep. Pete Stark, facing one of the toughest electoral challenges of his 40-year House career, is launching a video series called “Answering the Tough Questions.” The first one, “Why do you have a reputation for having a sharp tongue?”, rolls out today:
This seems to raise more questions than it answers.
It’s not Stark’s “sharp tongue” that 15th Congressional District voters, and national pundits, have been buzzing about this year – it was his series of outlandish, unfounded allegations that later had to be retracted. To recap:
- April 10: At a candidates’ forum in Hayward, Stark says that Swalwell accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” from Dublin-area developers, and that Swalwell has a spotty voting record.
- April 18: Stark issues a statement apologizing for having “misspoke” in making the April 10 allegations, but voicing “concerns about my opponent’s behavior” including Swalwell’s votes for projects “by developers who have been raided by the FBI” and “have plead guilty to destroying natural habitats.”
- May 1: At a San Francisco Chronicle editorial board meeting, Stark accuses a columnist of having contributed to Swalwell’s campaign; pressed for evidence, he flips through a folder of information he said was compiled by his 16-year-old son, finds nothing to back his claim, and apologizes. In the same meeting, he confuses defunct Fremont solar manufacturer Solyndra with electric-car manufacturer Tesla.
- May 3: At a Bay Area News Group editorial board meeting, Stark acknowledges he lacked evidence to back his April 18 claims: “I’ll concede to that, apologize for it, and let’s get back to issues.”
I asked Sharon Cornu, Stark’s campaign manager, about this today.
“The video is Pete answering the tough questions, the fair questions that have been raised, and communicating with voters the way he has through his town hall meetings over the years,” she replied. “We’re past the distraction part of the campaign, and it’s time to look at the issues that really matter.”
I also asked her whether “answering the tough questions” begs the question of why Stark won’t hold any public debates this general-election season with challenger Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman, Alameda County prosecutor and fellow Democrat.
“Put a fork in it, it’s done – we’ve had debates. Now’s the time to be talking with voters, not with the small number of people who attend debates,” Cornu said today. “This campaign is really about the direction of the country, this campaign is about President Obama and Mitt Romney, this campaign is about Social Security, Medicare and implementing the Affordable Care Act, and Pete Stark has the experience to represent the district.”
At a July event in Union City, Stark had grown angry as reporters asked whether his age is an issue in this race; asked why he won’t debate Swalwell, Stark replied it’s because “we’d only get stupid questions like you’re asking that have nothing to do with issues.”
There’s that sharp tongue again.