Candidates Undergo Hunger Strike
Politico (2010-08-17) Kasie Hunt
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More Info: CA 50 Congressional District
Candidates undergo hunger strike
By KASIE HUNT | 8/17/10 10:10 PM EDT
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was probably embarrassed when a student protester shoved a pie into his face, but two California candidates might have wanted just deserts. That's because the two congressional hopefuls have gone on hunger strike to demand a debate with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).
"The hunger has almost disappeared except when there's food around and TV ads and stuff. The Hometown Buffet commercial is one of the worst. They are an all-you-can-eat buffet," said Mike Benoit, the libertarian candidate in the three-way race.
The strike started with Democrat Ray Lutz, who said he got the idea from former California Rep. Jim Bates. Benoit immediately joined in. The pair are on their fifth day of a hunger strike they started at sundown on Aug. 12. They want Hunter to join them in a series of debates beginning on Aug. 25. Hunter has agreed to debate Lutz and Benoit — but not until October.
"My hope is that he holds out and doesn't expire before October because that's when we're going to debate him, and we've told him that several times," said Dave Gilliard, a spokesman for Hunter.
So far, Lutz has had a rough ride: He's missed 17 meals, lost 14 pounds, taken an enema to avoid toxic shock, talked to a doctor who recommended a salt-water purge, given up exercise and is so tired he has resorted to napping during the day.
But unlike the Irish Republicans who died of starvation after hunger strikes protesting British rule in the 1980s, Lutz will only go so far.
"I don't want to die - going to a debate with Duncan Hunter is not important enough for me to die," he told POLITICO on Tuesday. He said he will fast until at least Friday, Aug. 20, when Hunter is scheduled to appear at the Politics in Paradise event hosted by the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce. Lutz promises what he dubbed a "faceoff."
"I had a ticket, and I'm not going to be able to eat the hors d'oeuvres," Lutz said, reading from a ticket that promises heavy hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. "We're going to have signs; we're going to have protesters."
The San Diego-area 52nd District is heavily Republican, and Hunter is expected to win the November election easily. He is a freshman who replaced his father, former Rep. Duncan Hunter, after the elder man decided to retire.
Lutz accuses the current congressman of trading on his name and says the debates will help show voters that Hunter the son is much different from Hunter the father.
"You have a guy who inherited this seat from his father and I believe is really not qualified for this seat at all," Lutz said. He said his campaign has called several informational websites to ask them to remove the photos of Hunter's father that were displayed alongside current information about the district's representation.
Benoit has run for the seat numerous times before, but it's Lutz's first congressional run. He's well-known in the community because he led a campaign to stop Blackwater, the controversial private security firm, from building offices in the district.
Lutz is an electrical engineer who owns Cognisys, a company that sells electronics to psychologists and other professionals to help treat mental illnesses.