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Candidate gives away food staples in Ceres park
• COVID-19 changes the face of congressional politics in 2020
Howze in Ceres
A masked Ted Howze, candidate for the 10th Congressional District, distributed food on Third Street between the TID building and Smyrna Park on Monday afternoon. He has a crew of helpers from Turlock Christian High School assisting him. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Since the traditional ways of campaigning have changed significantly with the current lockdown related to coronavirus, those hoping to get elected to office this year have had to change tactics.

Congressional hopeful and veterinarian Ted Howze was in Ceres Monday afternoon with a small army of volunteers from Turlock Christian High School to hand out food items in a combined 126 bags or boxes. The group assembled on Third Street at the edge of Smyrna Park and handed out food between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to anyone who rolled up to collect through the vehicle window.

Howze used social media postings to make people aware of the food distribution. He said about 50,000 people were reached.

The food stapes included rice, vegetables, canned beans, macaroni and cheese and tuna and were donated.

“This is, I think, our fifth event,” said Howze. “We’ve given away food now to over 2,000 families at different venues.”

At an event at The House church in Modesto several weekends ago, Howze’s Operation Compassion fed 920 people and gave away 4,000 loaves of bread.

The Ceres event was co-sponsored by the Salvation Army, Turlock Christian and the Assyrian National Council.

“The feedback has been 100 percent positive and it’s been humbling because I never would have imagined.” He explained that typically he and his wife had eaten much of the time outside of the house and when their college student children had to return home because colleges were closed, they realized how little food was in the house. They quickly found out the shortage of supplies on grocery shopping excursions.

“I was in Raley’s in Turlock and walk in and the hoarders had cleaned the place out. I was walking down the spaghetti aisle and there was a poor elderly lady standing in the aisle crying and I asked her, ‘Are you okay? What’s wrong?’ and she said, ‘I’m on Social Security and fixed income and people have taken all the cheap food. I don’t know how I’m going to eat this month.’”

Howze began thinking about needs and decided to turn his campaign staff into a philanthropic organization. The group then started seeking donations of food.

The campaign food banks were turned into a call center asking people over 60 about their needs and less about politics.

Howze doesn’t think Gov. Newsom will allow the state to go back to normal until October and suspects it’s designed to hamper campaign activities against incumbent Democrats.

“We’re pretty much limited to these type of philanthropic events and phone calls or social media.”

Aside from curbside food distributions, the campaign has delivered thousands of packages of food to those who said they needed food. That effort started with seniors and disabled veterans.

“What we’re building is personal relationships and trust, right?”

Howze predicted a close race between himself and incumbent Rep. Josh Harder who is concluding the end of his two-year term.

“Right now it’s a coin flip between Josh and I,” said Howze. “This is still a conservative district but it’s tough to beat a sitting Congress person.”

Harder received 69,668 votes and Howze received 53,574 votes with other candidates in the mix. However, votes to all Republican candidates in the 10th Congressional District totaled 79,326 while Harder and his two Democrat challengers pulled less votes at 78,765.