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Candidates go on hunger strike due to lack of debates

Pomerado News (2010-08-19) Elizabeth Marie Himchak

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Candidates go on hunger strike due to lack of debates

By Elizabeth Marie Himchak

Congressional candidates Ray Lutz and Michael Benoit are one week into a hunger strike designed to get 52nd District Congressman Duncan D. Hunter to agree to multiple debates.

Lutz, a Democrat, and Benoit, a Libertarian, said they want more than the one debate the first-term Republican incumbent Hunter has agreed to participate in on Oct. 15 at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon.

Brennan Purtzer, Lutz’s media director, said the campaign learned of the Oct. 15 event organized by East San Diego County Chamber of Commerce today (Aug. 19). He said there should be at least four debates prior to mid-October because voters can start casting absentee ballots on Oct. 4.

The Lutz campaign also wants debates in multiple venues due to the vast geographic size of the 52nd Congressional District, which includes Poway, Ramona, El Cajon, Tierrasanta, La Mesa and Alpine.

“The bottom line is that (the hunger strike) is a publicity stunt because nobody is paying attention (to them),” said Dave Gilliard, Hunter’s campaign consultant.

“It’s kind of bizarre,” Gilliard said, adding the Hunter campaign offered to send Lutz and Benoit pizzas, but stands firm in a refusal to participate in additional or earlier debates.

Lutz, 52, and Benoit, 59, will not be physically able to eat the pizzas, if delivered, due to the lack of food their bodies have become adjusted to over the last seven days. Their last meals were in the evening of Aug. 12.

Lutz said he has lost 14 pounds due to only consuming water, diluted apple juice and taking vitamins. When he resumes eating, per a doctor’s advice he will have to start with broth and light foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

“The first few days were the hardest,” Lutz said, adding “now I’m cruising right along.”

Lutz said he has never skipped more than one meal before because with a longer fast “I feel grouchy.”

But after frequently watching the clock on day one, he found the second and third days to be easier.

“The fourth day was really hard and I was really short on energy,” Lutz said. “I had a real hard night’s sleep, which was not too pleasant.”

Since then the lack of food has become much easier to bear and if his health permits, Lutz said he figures the hunger strike can go 10 to 21 days.

“I rather it be done sooner than later because I do not plan to die over this,” he added.

Benoit said he has lost 11 pounds by only consuming water, vitamins, coffee, diet Coke and occasionally diluted apple juice.

“Some days are pretty normal and on other days I am light-headed and dizzy,” Benoit said.

According to Benoit, he found out about Lutz’s plan to start a hunger strike via his campaign website.

“It is not right to just let him do it,” Benoit said. “I have not decided how long (to continue) ... but might have to have some positive result before I stop.”

These could include Hunter agreeing to the requested multiple debates or a lot of voters getting fired up over the campaign, he said.

As for the argument against a single debate location, Gilliard said the Oct. 15 debate will be televised and few constituents watch election debates in person.

Lutz said he chose to do a hunger strike because when he ran for state assembly in 2008 the incumbent, Joel Anderson, agreed to a debate, which he later declined to participate in citing a schedule of official duties.

“It’s very common for the incumbent to not ... give you the time of day,” Lutz said.

Purtzer said the Lutz campaign launched the website today (Aug. 19) in order to start a nationwide movement that advocates for election debate so voters can learn more about candidates and their positions. Within hours, six political hopefuls from California posted their pledge to participate in debates prior to absentee ballots being mailed out to voters.

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Title Candidates go on hunger strike due to lack of debates
Publisher Pomerado News
Author Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Pub Date 2010-08-19
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Note Features Ray Lutz and Duncan Hunter Jr
Keywords CA 50 Congressional District
Media Type Linked Article
Media Group News
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Topic revision: r2 - 25 Feb 2013, RaymondLutz
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