Roll out the cannons!

GOP congressional candidates go to war

The race to replace Wally Herger in Congress is going to be a donnybrook, especially now that Sam Aanestad has joined the fray. He and his main opponent, Doug LaMalfa, who now occupies his former District 4 state Senate seat, represent opposite sides in the schism that afflicts the Republican Party in this part of the state, and they’re lining up with muskets raised as if war has broken out.

Aaron Park fired the first shot. He’s a conservative activist in Placer County whose “Right On Daily Blog” is a go-to site for North State Republicans of all stripes. In a blog entry titled “Doug LaMalfa for Congress? Are you kidding me???” he jumped all over LaMalfa for a litany of sins, including “using his office to enrich himself"—no specifics given. But the charge that hit a nerve was that LaMalfa and his rice-farming family have received $4.69 million in farm subsidies over the past 15 years—"making them one of Northern California’s Largest Welfare recipients.”

Redding Record Searchlight reporter Ryan Sabalow picked up Park’s comment and built a Feb. 18 story around it.

“It’s an issue about honesty and integrity,” Park told Sabalow. “It’s about presenting yourself as one thing, when you’re not. He really isn’t a fiscal conservative. He’s a liberal conservative.”

I like that one: a “liberal conservative.”

Then Sabalow called LaMalfa, who fired back: “The guy is a paid mudslinger,” he said of Park. He defended farm subsidies, saying they “help ‘breadbasket’ crop growers like his family offset the costs of burdensome regulations, taxes, trade policies and escalating fuel costs that threaten to put them out of business,” as Sabalow explained it. Almost made me cry.

Then LaMalfa delivered a line I’ve heard him utter a couple of times: “When you gripe about your farmer, don’t talk with your mouth full.” That’s his way of saying anybody who eats should keep his mouth shut about farm subsidies.

Sabalow called around to LaMalfa’s other opponents. “Col. Pete” Stiglich said it was hypocritical for a Republican to receive federal farm aid. Greg Cheadle, the Happy Valley businessman recently profiled in these pages, said, “You can’t condemn welfare recipients on one end and then get welfare on the other end. I mean 5 million bucks? Come on.”

Jim Reed, the only Democrat running, said he wasn’t planning to use the subsidies as a weapon, but if they came up in a debate, well, maybe É

And an Aanestad spokesman, Mark Standriff, said the campaign had no immediate plans to make an issue of the subsidies.

That was then. Two days after Sabalow’s story appeared, Standriff emailed it far and wide, adding an intro that cites Stiglich’s statement in Sabalow’s story that it’s hypocritical for LaMalfa to receive farm aid, since he’s touted himself as a leader in the fight against expensive government entitlements. “When it meets his personal interest, it’s not a big entitlement,” Stiglich said.

Roll out the cannons. The battle has begun.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.