It wouldn’t be accurate to write Josh Harder scored a TKO over Ted Howze during their debate in Turlock Wednesday night. It was more a case of Howze running head-first into Harder’s record of accomplishments, then bouncing off solid objects and into his own logical cul-de-sacs.
Howze came into the debate with a surprise attack. The endorsements that had been removed from his campaign’s website were back! He must have thought their reappearance would deliver a crushing blow, because he kept bringing them up.
It’s true Congressman Harder was caught by surprise. The endorsements had been taken down months ago, when the Republican Party refused to support Howze, calling his posts on social media, “disgusting and disgraceful.” Howze then removed his local endorsements. He said at the time that his supporters were receiving too much criticism.
Wednesday night, Harder assumed they were still missing.
Turns out some of the endorsements are back, but they only make things worse for Ted Howze. He seems to think backing from Stanislaus County mayors adds luster to his campaign. But most of the mayors who endorsed him will be remembered only for their major fail on managing Covid-19; only Deborah Novelli of Patterson and Newman’s Bob Martina refrained from signing an April letter to Governor Newsom demanding to reopen, despite Covid risks. Howze himself has routinely appeared among groups around the county without a facemask.
The letter has become such a toxic issue that during the Modesto Bee’s Mayors’ Forum, candidates — except for Mayor Ted Brandvold, who signed it — fell all over each other denying they would ever have supported such a thing, and for good reasons. Stanislaus County has routinely been among the very worst in the state for Covid management, and the fault lies at the feet of its supervisors and mayors, who have pushed reopening against the advice of health authorities at every opportunity.
But Howze’s endorsements present another, even worse problem for him. Howze says people “know me” and know the hateful posts on social media, “aren’t who I am.” But the posts stayed up for months. If people know him, and know who he is, why didn’t someone warn him about the posts? Why weren’t Howze’s friends, followers, and supporters alarmed enough by the posts to alert him to take them down?
Howze kept repeating that Josh Harder, “doesn’t know the Valley.” If that’s so, why is Harder’s list of endorsements so much longer than Howze’s? Why did Howze botch the pronunciation of Anthea Hansen’s name when he and Harder were discussing West Side water issues? Doesn’t he know her? She is, after all, General Manager of the Del Puerto Water District.
Howze would have probably preferred water issues didn’t come up. When they did, he couldn’t find ways around the simple fact that Harder procured the first federal funding for local water projects in fifty years.
Howze was especially weak on critical local issues like homelessness. He said we weren’t going to make any progress until police start enforcing, “quality of life crimes.” Most anyone who’s seen homelessness close up knows, as Josh Harder said, “You can’t arrest your way out of homelessness.”
So-called “quality of life” crimes, when enforced, amount to a few days or weeks in jail. When released, the “criminals” emerge back into homelessness and the cycle starts again.
Congressman Harder is supporting programs for the mentally ill and substance abusers. He’s working on ways to help build more affordable housing because he knows a major factor in the state’s homelessness is housing costs.
He’s also trying to increase funding for local law enforcement branches so they can add social and outreach workers to their staffs. Harder understands that the old, “catch, incarcerate, and release,” approach to homelessness doesn’t work.
Ted Howze claims he wasn’t endorsed by the Republican Party because he’s “not a bootlicker.” But, as Harder pointed out, if Howze somehow does get elected, he’s not going to be effective because no one is going to want to work with him. No one achieves legislative success in Washington D.C. without cooperating with others.
The plain fact is that Ted Howze’s hateful posts on social media and subsequent abandonment by the Republican Party cant’ be balanced by weak attempts to associate Congressman Harder with party politics back east. Harder has received national recognition for bipartisanship, he’s been endorsed by the National Chamber of Commerce, and by the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the largest law enforcement organization in the state.
Like Jeff Denham in 2018, Ted Howze has been reduced to running against Nancy Pelosi instead of Josh Harder. Lately, he’s even tried running against Gavin Newsom. The problem for Howze is that he’s in the arena with a man who truly understands what public service is all about, and delivers it. Try as he might, Ted Howze can’t lay a glove on California’s Congressman for District 10. All his attacks do is damage his own cause.
Wednesday night, Ted Howze told viewers he was always available for the public. The fact is, he ducked an offer to appear with Josh Harder on one of the Modesto Bee’s campaign forums. Most likely, Howze agreed to the Turlock debate because he realized it was one of his last chances to gain ground on a popular incumbent.
If that was his hope, he failed. By the end of the debate, Ted Howze looked like a man who had realized his attempts to land damaging blows on Josh Harder’s campaign had boomeranged. All he’d done was knock himself out.