Earlier this evening, I went to Manteca for a forum of six GOP congressional hopefuls aiming to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney. I expected the traditional red-meat politics, a few clever turns of phrase and shots at the party in power. I had expected to follow the debate and introduce the candidates in my weekly column.
I didn't expect a face-to-face accusation of political malfeasance.
Candidate Robert Beadles, who recently had his home and business searched by the California Highway Patrol and San Joaquin County Sheriff's deputies, told the nearly 250 people in attendance that the search was part of a malicious and "politically motivated" effort to muscle him out of the 11th District race. And he publicly called out frontrunning candidate Brad Goehring as having some connection to the matter.
The background is that, on Jan. 4, Beadles had his home and business, a construction outfit called RBI (for Robert Beadles Inc.), raided by authorities looking for stolen construction signs. From this news report, it appears the signs supposedly belonged to a competitor, Farwest Safety Inc., owned by Gary Anderson.
The business and homes were searched at about 7 a.m. that day. "Just as sheriff's deputies arrived" at Beadles' business, Beadles wrote in a statement, someone from Anderson's office called one of Beadles' employees warning of the search. This timing, Beadles wrote, made him suspect skullduggery.
At 10:27 a.m. that same day, an e-mail was sent by a Farwest Safety employee to members of the media -- including the Tracy Press -- stating that the sheriff and the CHP "...raided the office of RBI Inc. today..."
In addition to the release being e-mailed to Anderson, the Contractors State License Board, American Civil Contractors and Ghilotti Bros. Contractors, it was also sent to the offices of McNerney and Goehring. That was the apparent connection that prompted Beadles, in his closing statement of the forum, to ask Goehring to help clear his name -- fireworks that ended what was, until then, a fairly standard political forum.
When I asked him about the one-sided exchange, Goehring said that he feels he has run a clean campaign. Goehring said that he has a deep reputation in the area as a moral and upstanding citizen, and that he was not about to change the way he conducts himself or jeopardize that hard-earned reputation.
Goehring, appearing to want to remain above the fray, added that he remains focused on mounting a successful challenge to McNerney.
Tony Amador, another competitor in the crowded 11th District GOP field, said after Monday's forum that it would be wise for the state attorney general's office to look into any possible impropriety. A former police officer and U.S. marshal, Amador said: "I'm appaled if the comments (Beadles) made are true."
It should be noted that Goehring's receipt of the e-mail appears so far to be the only link between Goehring and the search of Beadles' property that the Beadles campaign could provide after the forum.
Hector Barajas, communications director for the Beadles campaign, added that Beadles had filed a lawsuit against his business competitor for slander and other offenses.
A helluva way to kick off the campaign season, if you ask me. (We'll have more on the forum and what the candidates actually debated about in the coming days.)