So, I spent a big chunk of last Saturday at the grand opening of Bill Hedrick’s new Riverside campaign office, at the invitation of his field director Aria Ghafari (a former Orange Juice blogger until his near-death experience in May ‘08.) The event was standing room only and spilling into the corridors with Riverside Democrats eager to help Bill outdo his amazing 2008 showing, when with no institutional support he came within under 5000 votes (2%) of defeating 15-year incumbent Ken Calvert.
The crowd was a multiracial rainbow reflective of Riverside’s diverse demographics: one comely black woman even tried to convince me she was a “blue person from Avatar,” but I was having none of it. Riverside’s popular Democratic mayor Ron Loveridge strode about shaking hands, and we heard stirring speeches from Assembly candidates Jose Medina and Dennis White, but none to match fireball Dr. Rita Ramirez-Dean (running for San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools.)
That is, until Bill Hedrick took the stand. The ostensibly mild-mannered educator’s impassioned and energetic oratory helps you understand why he inspires such fierce loyalty among his supporters, and why the DCCC has listed the Hedrick-Calvert showdown as one of their “emerging races”, while, conversely, the NRCC has listed Calvert second in their “Patriot Program” for endangered incumbents.
The 44th Congressional District is a grotesque gerrymandered mooncalf, 80% of whose population is in Riverside County – that’s including the cities of Corona, Norco, and Riverside itself (now a majority-Democrat town.) In this part of the district, Bill prevailed by 5% in ’08.
But from there the district stretches a shriveled appendage deep into Southernmost Orange County, grasping Richard Nixon’s San Clemente, the wealthy half of San Juan Capistrano (that’s the inland side of the freeway) and the Real Housewives of Coto de Caza. These folks vote at rates approaching 90%, and overwhelmingly and unquestioningly check off any name with an “R” next to it, which cost Bill the few thousand votes he needed to prevail.
So we Democrats need to make two things happen this year – greater registration and turnout in the vast Riverside portion of the district, and a little education in the South OC on the topic of what a hapless and compromised clown their “nine-term backbencher” really is. For as much as I prefer, and intend, to write about the strengths of Hedrick, the story is just incomplete without a quick look at:
The Manifold Failings of Ken Calvert
For four years in a row now, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has listed Mr. Calvert as one of their “most corrupt Members of Congress” (currently a quite bipartisan list.) And I’ve long noticed the more honest Republican bloggers over at Red County excoriating him for his corruption and huge addiction to earmarks. Some Calvert lowlights:
- He’s obtained, through his seat on the House Transportation Committee, millions of taxpayer dollars in earmarks over the years that have dramatically increased the value of several of his real estate holdings, leading to his being included as one of three Congressmen featured in Fox’s documentary “Porked: Earmarks for Profit.”
- Shady land deals: a Riverside grand jury has determined that a “sweetheart deal” Calvert and his partners got from a public agency with no competition in 2006 was illegal; that is currently in litigation.
- A Federal Grand Jury is investigating whether Calvert violated federal laws by accepting campaign contributions from clients of the lobbying firm Copeland Lowery in exchange for EARMARKS.
- Most luridly and notoriously, in 1993, police caught Mr. Calvert in his car receiving fellatio from a heroin-addicted prostitute. He first tried to drive off, then when forced over he claimed that they were just “chatting.” Howie Klein has noted this overall pattern of Calvert’s always denying even his most obvious transgressions. Calvert got divorced that year, remains a bachelor, and went on to be one of the chief hypocrites hounding President Clinton over the Lewinsky matter.
These various moral failings have inspired Christian conservative Chris Riggs to run against him in this June’s primary. (This is Chris pictured with his family to the far right, in front of reeds not unlike those near which the baby Moses was found.) I’ll be interviewing Chris as we get closer to the primary, but his website lists other Calvert transgressions I might not have thought of otherwise:
- Seventeen years ago Calvert signed “The Contract with America”, promising not to hold his Congressional seat for a day more than twelve years.
- Constituents may find it interesting to know that, even after 8 terms, he received zero points for influence within the House of Representatives according to Congress.org’s 2008 Power Rankings.
- Along with fellow south-county RINOs John Campbell and Gary Miller, he voted for both the TARP bailout AND Cash-for-Clunkers, a fact which Red County’s Alan Bartlett, taking Scott Baugh’s recent bloviations seriously, feels should cost them the OC GOP’s endorsement.
- Again like his fellow snake-oil salesmen, Calvert refused to hold any town-hall meetings on the topic of health care reform, a failure frustrating to progressives and teabaggers alike.
- After so many years of doing absolutely nothing for his district, but suddenly fearful for his prospects this November, he is currently subjecting his constituents to an unprecedented deluge of glossy mailers, paid for by the government – a very cheap and sleazy way to campaign against underfunded challengers.
- One last fun fact, speaking of funding – in his razor-thin 2008 victory against Hedrick, he spent $8.85 in (corporate) money per vote, compared to Hedrick’s $1.48.
I hope Chris Riggs beats Ken Calvert in the primary; honest conservative Republicans and rightwing Christians really should choose him. But even if Calvert prevails in June, the primary should give south OC Republicans a bit of an education about the man who’s been representing and embarrassing them in Washington for so long.
OK, now! When things quieted down Saturday and most of the crowd had gone home, Bill Hedrick was able to sit down with your humble Orange Juice blogger for a short chat, which I will divide into three sections:
Hedrick, the Orange Juice Interview (part 1: family)
OJ: I was just thinking, it seems unfair that poor Ken Calvert will have to run against an honest family man in the Republican primary, and then face another honest family man in the general election.
Hedrick: (chuckles, no comment)
OJ: …And yet family comes with its own complications. For example, your daughters tell me they’ve got you listening to Lady Gaga now, and even singing her songs.
Hedrick: (laughing) Yeah. It’s true, I confess. I guess I have graduated from Madonna to Lady Gaga.
OJ: Well, I’m pretty sure that’s progress. Anyway, I was mostly wondering how your sons are doing, though. Are they both still in Iraq?
Hedrick: I’ve got one son and daughter-in-law in Iraq, and they’re on their third deployments. My other son and his wife are both back. That daughter-in-law Evelyn did two tours in Baghdad, and my son did one that was interrupted by a heat stroke in Iraq. He’s in the National Guard now, in California.
OJ: Yeah, I read about that when it happened, and it was listed as a “near-fatal heat-related incident,” and at first I thought “Oh shit, he got burned up,” but then I realized it was probably weather-related. And then I started to think, that probably happens to a lot of guys out there, and some of them die, and I bet they’re not even included in our official toll of 4300 or whatever…
Hedrick: They have a lot of heat injuries there…
Hedrick: Yeah, yeah, they’ve had deaths there. In his unit they had, on the same day, two heat injuries. They were out on patrol…
OJ: Their Kevlar on, and…
Hedrick: Yeah, and inadequate water, and that’s what happened. But he was very lucky. His body temperature was 108 degrees, and it should have been either fatal or permanent damage.
OJ: Do we count “heat-related deaths” with official fatalities?
OJ: I didn’t think so. There are so many things they leave off – they don’t count all the suicides, all the accidents, the deaths from disease, I don’t think they count friendly fire…
Hedrick: No, I don’t think so.
OJ: So our fatalities out there are WAY over the 4300.
Hedrick: Well, they don’t count these injuries either. You know, there are 18 and 19-year olds out there in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also with the National Guard units you got guys who are 35 and 40 and 45 and older, and those very severe conditions, especially when you’re bumping around in the back of a non-air-conditioned transport, can be really extreme. So… I’m surprised they don’t have more of those issues.
OJ: Yeah, they sweep those things under the carpet. Okay, let’s talk about the war. Or wars…
coming up over the next few weeks:
The Manifold Failings of Ken Calvert (longer version)
GOP Primary: San Clemente and SJC Republicans should Vote for Chris Riggs!