BRENTWOOD – At least one East Contra Costa Tea Party organizer likely woke up with a fat lip this morning and another may be nursing a bruised ego–and an angry wife.
The forum last night at Brentwood Veterans Memorial Hall, where San Ramon-based lawyer and 11th Congressional District candidate David Harmer spoke, was the epicenter of not only Bay Area Tea Party fervor but a bit of old-school jealousy.
"Never let your hand brush a woman's rear," joked a slightly shaken Steve Donaldson, an East Contra Costa Tea Party organizer.
He was the target of what he said was likely a jealous husband–the husband of East Tea Party group founder Jill Price. The male Price, upon seeing Donaldson inadvertently touch his wife's backside while both were onstage, suddenly attacked Donaldson, knocking him off the stage for it, Donaldson figured.
Donaldson's brother-in-law put a rear-naked choke hold on the irate husband but the crowd quickly pulled him off. No one was arrested but two firefighters showed up, then quickly left.
"The incident was disgraceful," said Jill Price. "My apologies to the candidates and the community."
Just moments earlier, Congressional candidates Harmer and San Franciso's John Dennis, among others, had been on stage stumping for old-school Jeffersonian Democracy. The crowd of about 200 seemed pumped up to "take America back," but the incident marred the festive mood.
"That was weird," commented one bystander.
Harmer, who is running for the 11th Congressional District—which includes towns such as San Ramon, Danville and Lodi–and Dennis, who is running for the 8th Congressional District against entrenched Democrat Nancy Pelosi, talked with Patch.com after the incident.
Visibly embarrassed, they made no comment on the donnybrook, instead focusing on their respective battles: Destroy capital gains taxes, dismember "Obama-Care," demolish Pelosi, despoil 11th District Democrat incumbent, Rep. Jerry McNerney's third run at Congress and "kick out the bums out" in Washington who they say are spending the country into a sucking vortex of debt.
"Don't be fooled by the Left-Right fight," Dennis warned the audience of mostly senior citizens.
"While we fought the Left-Right fight, government debt ballooned," he continued. "Government deficit skyrocketed. It's time to stop the Left-Right fight."
Private enterprise and less government are the best ways to get people back to work, Harmer pounded home.
"We have two government-sponsored enterprises," said Harmer: "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."
Boos and hisses erupted from the crowd.
"They have an implicit taxpayer guarantee that has now become woefully explicit," he continued. "The kings of the bailouts, they are the only enterprises to have an open-ended pipeline to the U.S. Treasury."
Harmer's stump speeches are generally the same: Big government, increased taxes and lockstep Democratic politics threaten the future of the country.
Greeting Brentwood's Tea Party last night with his now-routine "fellow counter revolutionaries," Harmer steered noticeably clear of two things: Religious jargon and his relationship to former president Ronald Reagan.
Reagan—with whom Harmer's father served as Lt. Governor of California—has often been a way for Harmer to suggest his traditional Republican lineage. And he has often peppered his repertoire with religious references. While at a Tea Party forum at Lodi recently, for example, Harmer reportedly described Obama's health care plan as something so odious and un-American that he suggesting they "Pour salt on it, and curse it in God's holy name!"
There was no talk of being prompted by the Spirit to run for office or that his family is currently studying Captain Moroni. He was all bootstrap political business.
"This is not what we created government for," he said, referring to Obama's health plan. "It is not the job of the government to insure that nobody goes sick or hungry or sober. It is not the job of the government to attempt to right every wrong, solve every problem or redress every grievance."
The crowd nodded in agreement. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, he continued.
"A wise and frugal government shall restrain them from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free," said Harmer.
Months after he lost to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, in last year's special election in the 10th Congressional District, won the Republican nomination for the 11th.
Some called him a carpetbagger because he lives just yards outside the 11th Congressional in San Ramon. But there's nothing illegal about that, according to the law, which allows candidates to run for any Congressional office if they reside in the state.
But while Harmer trumpeted self-reliance and bootstrap economics, he was sure not to ignore the real effects of a powerful recession and make clear that he feels Americans' pain. Sort of.
"Food stamps," he said. "You know how many Americans are receiving them now? Forty-one million. We have set a new record in terms of the number of Americans receiving food stamps every month for 18 months straight. The average 401K account is down by more than one quarter. The average home price is down by more than a third. Consumer confidence is crumbling. Employers aren't hiring, businesses aren't investing and houses aren't selling, although four million of them have gone through foreclosure in the last two years."
"So when I say that this is the most consequential election of my lifetime, I mean it," he said.
The stimulus has stimulated nothing but deficit spending and the national debt, he said. Still, America borrows and spends, he said. And 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives moving carbon-emitting jobs overseas, he said.
"How does that job killer reduce carbon emissions?" he asked.
But some said he offered few real solutions except one: Elect me and I'll support an American's right to be a "free and independent doer who wants nothing more than to be left alone."
"I really don't know if I've changed my mind at all about him," said one forum attendee, who refused to be identified. He had come to the forum on his bicycle. "We're all facing job losses. I don't know if that kind of politician is right for the country—at least not right now."
Coming soon: Profile: David Harmer. An interview and answers to questions, in Harmer's own words. The Congressional 11th includes the cities of Danville, San Ramon and Pleasanton.