Despite a pandemic, the campaign trail leading up to the November election for California’s 10th Congressional District is much like that of a normal year — complete with town hall events, fundraising, canvassing and, of course, political ads.
Residents of District 10 will choose between incumbent Democrat Josh Harder and his Republican challenger Ted Howze come Nov. 3, after the two candidates took the top two spots in the March primary, respectively. While Harder received the most votes following the primary election with 44.1 percent, Republicans grabbed over half of the overall vote count.
Since then, the world has changed as the coronavirus pandemic continues. At its start, the Courier caught up with Howze as he delivered care packages to the needy in Ceres and Harder connecting with constituents virtually — both a sign of the difficult times. Six months later much remains the same, though the two campaigns carry on with November fast approaching.
While the candidates’ third quarter fundraising numbers will be released next month, most recent data from June 30 shows that the Harder campaign had nearly $4.4 million in cash on hand compared to Howze’s $254,294.
When the candidates aren’t raising funds, they’ve continued finding ways to campaign both on social media and from a distance. It’s not uncommon to scroll through the Facebook feed and see a video or two of Howze speaking into the camera to voters, while Harder utilized Turlock’s new outdoor cinema to host a drive-in town hall event recently. Both have also found ways to continue giving back to the community during the pandemic, with Harder organizing supply drives for frontline workers and Howze leading a trash cleanup along Highway 99 in Turlock last month.
Still, one of the best ways to reach voters during a time where everyone is encouraged to stay home is through advertising. A recent ad released by the Harder campaign titled “Nightmare” features clips taken of a 2018 interview with Howze from The 209 Headlines Podcast (now known as The 209 Podcast) and has the Republican challenger crying foul.
The ad states that Howze wants to raise the retirement age, cut benefits for all retirees and includes a snippet of a quote in which Howze states “Medicare is a nightmare,” and that Congress can look at things like “income indexing, raising the qualifications.”
In a video response to the ad shared on social media, Howze stated that Harder’s “deceptive advertising” is a ploy to divert attention away from the fact that “he has failed in Congress to provide affordable healthcare, and his record is terrible.” He posted that he plans on protecting Social Security and Medicare and will never vote to increase the retirement age. Howze also told the Courier he takes issue with a flyer created by the Harder campaign which photoshopped a pair of scissors into his hand.
“Congress has failed to deliver on their healthcare promises they made America and Josh Harder has been part of that failed Congress,” said Howze. “Since he can't talk about any successes, he needs to use deceptively photoshopped pictures and doctored clips to falsely attack my positions. Josh clearly doesn’t think much of Central Valley voters’ ability to see through the manure he is shoveling.”
In the full podcast interview, Howze includes raising the retirement age as part of a list of ideas meant to address problems with Social Security, which also included raising the amount of tax withheld from workers’ checks and raising the Social Security cap. Of the three, he states raising the cap would be the easiest fix, while raising the retirement age incrementally until the age of 70 is a viable second option due to increasing life expectancies.
When asked to comment on the advertisement, the Harder campaign also pointed to a separate 2018 instance, a League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, where Howze states the most important thing Congress needs to do is focus on restructuring “entitlements” to ensure their longevity. Social Security is the easiest fix, he says, because caps can be raised and the retirement age can be increased.
The campaign also provided a screenshot of a Facebook comment made by the Ted Howze for Congress page they claim has now been deleted, which shows the candidate suggested raising the retirement age incrementally by two months per year until it reaches 70.
“Ted should come clean about his plan to raise the retirement age for Social Security. He can’t lie his way out this time. It’s on video, it’s online, he said it on a podcast and in a debate. Ted’s at it again lying about the terrible stuff he’s said and cooking up a weird conspiracy theory to cover it up. The man just can’t take responsibility for his actions and his words,” charged Harder’s campaign manager Sam Signori. “Ted is a threat to anyone who plans to retire at 65. That’s the bottom line.”
Howze refused to sling mud in his most recent ad, which was filmed in Turlock last week and is titled, “Let’s Choose Us.” He slams the health insurance company that allowed his first wife to die of a treatable heart condition and vows to meet the corporate healthcare industry head-on if elected.
“Congress has failed to deliver for us and people in the Valley want a change, not DC games,” states Howze in the ad, as he stands in front of a field of supporters. “I won’t play games or bow to special interests — so now it’s us versus them. Let’s choose us.”
The two candidates will have the chance to set the record straight — from a distance — during a debate hosted by the Turlock Journal at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7. The event will be livestreamed by the newspaper staff through the Turlock Journal’s YouTube channel and on its website. To submit a question to be asked of both candidates, email firstname.lastname@example.org.