Alzheimers. It's a scary word, and when it was spoken tonight it caused an audible gasp to ripple through the crowd at the Candidate's Forum, sponsored by the Chico Enterprise Record and The League of Women Voters.
Representative Wally Herger's sudden and unexplained decision to skip the debate prompted even the Chico ER to editorialize against him, accusing him of "Campaigning From the Couch." Wednesday night, after Herger's representative read a few paragraphs of standard Republican talking points to a silent crowd, Jim Reed voiced his own suspicions about why Herger has been ducking him when he has willingly debated opponents in the past.
Reed's comments below the fold.
Our view: When politicians don't have to debate before an election, it's not good for democracy.
Jim Reed will drive three hours from his home in Fall River Mills to speak at a candidates forum tonight in Chico. Wally Herger, the other candidate, won't drive across town to do so.
The ER posited that Herger doesn't have to debate because, well, he doesn't have to debate. He's ahead in the polls. His district leans Republican. He's held on to his seat for 24 years against opponents both serious and silly. He's loaded with cash. Why take a political risk?
But while it has become fashionable for Republican candidates to speak exclusively with Fox-friendly media, Herger has even spurned a debate proposed by his own natural allies. Jim Reed, a moderate Democrat who hasn't hesitated to meet with any of the north state's constituents, has spoken at Tea Party events, spurring the Shasta Tea Party to offer to host their own debate in hopes of luring Herger out. No dice.
Unfortunately, Herger's refusals to come out in the open have only fueled long-term speculation and rumors about his mental fitness to be re-elected. Reed had already suggested in an interview with Progressive News Radio that Alzheimer's might be behind Herger's suddenly reclusive ways, and in tonight's forum he similarly didn't pull any punches:
transcript: (emphasis mine)
So I'm Jim Reed. I really wish that Wally was here tonight. I'm disappointed, not so much because you're not going to be able to see the contrast between our political issues because you can go to our website and you'll see what our views are on the political issues. You pretty much know that Wally Herger's pretty much out there on the right wing; I'm pretty much in the middle as a moderate Democrat. But what we miss by not having Wally Herger here is to see the personal. And a lot of you say, Well, he's been in office for 24 years, we know what Wally Herger's like. But has he grown old and tired? Or, does he have the fire in the belly? That's what we need to know.
Let me end by saying this. We have a debate, Wally Herger and I have a debate scheduled for October 25th, to be televised on KIXE. I am absolutely convinced that wouldn't have happened but for a newspaper article that came out from a Chico paper last week that identified some unusual behavior and suggested that maybe he's not willing to debate Reed because he has an illness, perhaps Alzheimer's. The next day, we had a debate [scheduled]. Now that was the right thing for Wally to do because the easiest way to just get rid of a rumor like that, a terrible rumor, and that's a terrible disease, is to debate. But the problem with choosing October 25th for that debate is, it should have been today. If on October 25th he finds an excuse why he can't be there, he gets called back to Washington, there's just not enough time to reschedule it. So, and it even suggests that maybe this is a ploy that he never intended to debate at all if he doesn't show up on October 25th. So anyway, let's stay tuned, I truly hope he will. I'm Jim Reed running for Congress. I ask for your vote. Thank you.
Stay tuned, indeed.