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Harder’s campaign has gotten real dirty

Politics has always been a dirty business. 

And yes it’s dirty in the 10th Congressional District where Democrat Josh Harder is seeking to fend off a challenge by Ted Howze, the Republican.

Most people expect a close race but if I were Harder I’d be concerned. Why? Look at the numbers. 

In 2018, Harder was able to overtake Jeff Denham by just 9,900 votes, or 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent. The total votes cast in that race were 221,900.

In that June 5, 2018 primary, six Democrat candidates pulled 58,315 votes to the 63,442 candidates drawn by the two Republicans. Total votes cast was 121,757, which is understandable given less people vote in primary elections than general elections. If there were more GOP votes cast in the primary, how did Harder win? The answer: Democrat voter turnout. We were midway into the Trump presidency at a time when people were becoming fatigued of the negative press he has always received.

Harder aggressively brought in his Bay Area squad and ballot harvested like there was no tomorrow.

Okay so let’s look at the March 2020 primary election. The three Democrat candidates pulled in 78,765 votes while the three Republicans pulled 79,325 votes. A total of 158,090 voted, much more than in June 2018.

Without a doubt there is a lot of Trump Derangement Syndrome at play but the enthusiasm level of the GOP – after seeing Democrats mollycoddle rioters in the streets of America all summer – is much higher. You can sense it. The size and enthusiasm of the Trump rally in Turlock the weekend of Oct. 17-18 blew people away. Many of those who attended voiced anger over the Democrats continued lockdown of our economy and schools. All this bids well for Howze. While it is true that on July 3 Democrats outnumbered Republicans in Stanislaus County by a margin of 102,305 to 94,305, some moderate Democrats are defecting to Trump. I personally know of one registered Democrat who had nothing good to say about Trump in 2016 but voted for him this time because she’s tired of what’s happening in the country with Black Lives Matter and Antifa and people like Josh Harder refusing to condemn the violence they bring. She also knows our economy was humming until the COVID-19 lockdown which is being played to the hilt by Democrat governors like Newsom.

Ted Howze has reported that there have been some malicious lies being promoted by the Harder camp. Howze’s campaign has been going door to door and heard from some people repeatedly that they had been called from out-of-town numbers who dissed Howze as a bad veterinarian who had multiple malpractice suits. One person said Howze abused animals. All lies. In 27 years as a large animal vet, Howze had no complaints or suits filed against him.

One woman who received a live phone call called back and when she questioned the Harder campaigner further he hung up on her. She called back until Grayson finally answered and pressed him for his supervisor’s phone number. Her name was Willow who runs the phone banking operation for Harder. Howze’s attorney, Michael Warda of Turlock, issued a cease and desist order.

There is a voice recording with the woman, Willow, which you can listen for yourself by searching YouTube for “Josh Harder Campaign Smears Ted Howze.” This Willow confirms the lie about malpractice suits and then suggests “it’s something we’ve heard from other voters.” So essentially it’s all hearsay. When confronted with the information that the California Veterinary Medical Board website has no record of any malpractice suits involving Howze, Willow replied, “to be completely honest I would just say, probably don’t want to talk about that right now just because it’s not verified or it’s not public.”

Oh but the Harder spread that misinformation anyway on live phone calls. Wow.

Officially the Harder campaign disavowed itself from the controversy, saying: “These allegations are simply false. Harder for Congress has not authorized our staff or volunteers to disseminate malpractice allegations about Mr. Howze.” 

* * * * *

People have asked me how the election will be going to go down.

Don’t underestimate the Condit political machine. I suspect that Channce Condit will be victorious over Tom Hallinan in the District 5 Stanislaus County Board of Supevisors race. Both are Democrats but some seem to be dazzled by youth (read that inexperience in Condit’s case). If Condit wins, there will be a vacancy to fill on the Ceres City Council.

In District 3 I see Bret Silveira handily winning that Ceres City Council seat.

District 4 is a coin toss. Couper Condit is spending the big bucks and sending out negative mailers. Incumbent Mike Kline has a lot of friends too but should be worried about retaining his seat. In his first campaign finance statement, Kline showed receiving no contributions and making no expenditures for re-election. He informed me that the second filing period statement would show an effort.

Predicting the mayoral race is a no-brainer. Bret Durossette wins hands down, maybe taking 60 to 70 percent of the total vote. Javier Lopez will find some support from Latinos who will vote for him just because of his ethnicity despite zero experience and no vision.

We’ll see how accurate I am.

* * * * *

I received an email from a young teen who went on a rant against me. Honestly, this 14-year-old girl fell hook, line and sinker for an online petition seeking to have my head on a platter because the Cancel Culture doesn’t like the few remaining conservative journalists espousing their views in print. 

This 14-year-old believed I was racist because I support Trump and because I’m a Republican. I decided to try to change her mind by responding.

First, here is her email to me:

“Dear Jeff Benziger,

“I have recently read your article on the Ceres newspaper and it’s really poorly written. I myself am 14 and I know that you might ridicule me like all the other people who don’t have the opinion you do. But before that I just want to tell you some of the things that you said and why they are wrong to maybe try and change your opinion on this. Do you remember back in March when you said that COVID-19 is overblown and that the chances of dying in a car crash is a higher chance than dying to COVID-19? Well that aged pretty bad didn’t it?

“Now there are 30 million cases and the pandemic is still growing. I estimated that there will be 50 million cases by 2021 and since there’s already a million deaths I also think that there would also be 750 thousand deaths by then as well. Do you see how much wearing a mask helps now? It’s used to reduce the spread not to entirely prevent it. You have to realize eventually that the government isn’t forcing you to wear a hazmat suit to the grocery store. That would be one way to stop it but it’s not practical and if you would have complained about that and proposed to wear masks instead, I would agree and support your point. Instead you spread propaganda about how masks are useless and they shouldn’t be worn with your comparison to cars. You wouldn’t die in a car if you knew how to drive and you also wouldn’t die from COVID-19 if you respected social distancing rules while wearing a mask. It’s that easy. And yet instead of respecting that rule you criticized the person who had common sense and was asking a genuine question.

“If you don’t know there’s actually a petition to remove you from your own job because of your bias, and racism.

“I haven’t done much digging into your background if you actually did say are a racist or not but judging by what I’ve read I think they are right. Unlike you I’m an advocate for change. Where you want to execute prisoners, who murdered someone I think they should get a second chance and be put into prison. I see this ironic image of you wanting to kill someone for their murders while others are trying to put you out of your position as a newspaper editor and it makes me smile because it makes you look so naïve. If I were as you are, I would join them and have you removed and yet I’m not. I am here, contacting you in a last chance attempt to maybe try and persuade you to become a better person and to make articles without bias nor ridicule of any sort. I wish you no harm and all but the best since you are an elder and you have seen much more on this earth than what I have. But your opinion is completely wrong and you have to see the world from another angle.

“Also, you should change your views on the Republican party. I know it’s good for economics and all but think about what will happen if Trump gets re-elected. People will think that America has a dictator. There’s already suspicion about him rigging the votes for the election. All of the racist things that he said. He’s just a bad person. He’s not stupid because he is doing a good job at making the stock markets rise but he is a bad person as he is a racist. Racists are strange in my eyes. Why can’t you see everyone as equal?

“Why does the color of the skin matter to you? Will it make you feel uncomfortable to talk with a person who isn’t Caucasian? Really man you have to think about this a bit more. I know you grew up in a time where racism was still partly accepted in society but things do change and you have to change with them. You should really reconsider wearing a mask though. You are risking the lives of others and personally I think that’s really selfish. No matter, the person nor the place you should wear a mask whenever you are outside and not doing anything that needs for your mouth to be used. It’s not that hard. I can go to school with these things and if I can you probably can as well. People are working on the COVID-19 vaccine day and night hoping that less people will die before it’s done and here you are risking spreading it to everyone else. Your ignorance is baffling. You know that if you infect the people who have families you risk infecting their relatives as well? Think about it. Just because you didn’t wear a mask you just endangered the lives of a family. I hope you reconsider your decisions in life. 

Best Regards 


I couldn’t let her blatantly distorted views of me stand. Here was my response:

“I care about you and your thoughts so that is why I am writing to you.

“You don’t know me yet you have already made judgments against me. For example, I do wear a mask every time I go in the store. Nobody in our office wears a mask. My mother got COVID and didn’t even break a fever. Oh, by the way, she is 79 years old and lives in an assisted living facility where there are no visitations and everybody wears a mask. Masks are no guarantee!

“And I will absolutely disagree with you about wearing a mask outside. It’s ridiculous, really. I run miles at a time and there is no way I am going to wear a mask and I think Biden is ridiculous for suggesting it.

“Don’t want to get COVID? Stay health, wash your hands and stay away from crowds. Chances are you won’t get it and if you do you’ll be fine … just like Trump.

“Most of the deaths occur in people who have health problems. If they want to live in fear, they can stay home. The rest of us (your parents included) have to make a living. People are dying from this shutdown. They’re getting depressed and dying.

“I’ve never had a 14-year-old tell me I am a poor writer. That is a first as I have been doing this since 1982, some 19 years before you were born. Thanks for acknowledging that I have more experience than you and with age hopefully comes wisdom. I’ve had 59 years of life and you have just gotten started.

“For example, you don’t pay taxes so you don’t know what it’s like to see yourself working hard just to let your government takes thousands of your dollars. My property tax bill is about $5,800 per year – just so I can live in my own home. If I don’t pay it, they take my house away! That’s one reason why I am a Republican; they are for lower taxes while Democrats enjoy taxing people. California is unaffordable because of their excessive taxes and regulations!

“Have you held a baby in your life? I had four children myself. I am repulsed that the Democrats support abortion and late-term abortions to kill babies. If you don’t know what that horrifying process is just google it.  You likely have never heard of such legal killing.

“I am concerned that young people like you are influenced by a media you believe is trust-worthy yet biased beyond measure against Republicans and President Trump. Your teachers are also very biased against Trump and so are your Hollywood stars and musicians. So I see why you make statements like Trump is a dictator. Trump can only sign laws passed by Congress. And why are you silent about Nancy Pelosi, the 80-year-old speaker of the House who has repeatedly tried to impeach a president with no legitimate reasons? Now she wants to remove a president on the basis of the 25th Amendment. Are you even aware of what that is?

“Sure I know about the petition to have me quit. It was started by a few local youth who want to silence my conservative views. That’s really sad that we have a whole generation who wants to actually stifle free speech, isn’t it?  You probably weren’t taught in school that our Founding Fathers believed in free speech, which also means protecting speech you don’t like. Unfortunately, lots of people like to throw around a charge of racism as an effective way to stomp on people who are not racist, and that includes me.

“You claim I lived in a racist time. Maybe I did. I was born in 1961 but in my world in Modesto I was cool with everybody. I didn’t even know what racism was. I had school friends of all colors, Indian, Japanese and black. They were my friends. I was never taught to hate anyone. My aunt was Japanese. I have Latino cousins. My grandchildren are quarter Latino. 

“I do believe that we should be a color-blind society. I love Martin Luther King’s admonition that we should live in a world where we judge people by their hearts and not their skin color. That’s why I am appalled that there is a proposition on the ballot to give preferential treatment to people based on their skin color! That is totally what King fought against! You asked if I talk to people of color. Absolutely, why wouldn’t I? One of my favorite co-workers is a person of color. I love the man!

“You are so wrong about Trump being a racist. It’s a lie the media is promoting by editing out an essential series of comments. If you really have an open mind, Ilya, please watch this video and it will simply explain to you the entire truth about the Charlottesville comment. Please watch it for me! Just the first two minutes is all you need to watch:

“As far as my support of the death penalty, I believe while we are to have mercy at times, some crimes are so atrocious that the penalty has to be death. I believe in the Bible which endorses the penalty of death for someone who murders another person. Do you think it’s right for that man who slashed the throats of three women in Modesto and snuffed out two little defenseless girls should be able to just live the rest of his life? Do you ever stop and think that what they have done is so horrible, so wretched, that they don’t deserve their own death, administered humanely?

“Well, that’s about it. I wanted to answer you. I hope I opened your mind because 14 years really isn’t much time to form an experienced opinion about anything. You have a whole lifetime ahead of you to learn.

“I wish you well. Thanks for writing.


A week later she responded. Apparently I made a minor impact. She wrote back:

“You’ve opened up my mind. I’m sorry for making the accusations I clearly didn’t do that much background research. For an instance I never knew that Republicans lower taxes and now that I have a broader view on political parties I don’t really know who I should vote for.”

After stating that “I’m sure you are a good person” she admitted that the email was because of a school project and that she found one of my columns by searching “why I don’t like masks.” She also decided to take her time in proving a point against me and that – get this – “Going against a Republican really does help your school grades.”

It’s obvious that she is immersed in socialist ideology.  She called for anarchists not to be punished but deported to other countries. Ilya called for free mental therapy and “to make sure the government doesn’t happen again and that some regular old Joe doesn’t buy all the land in our country.” Ilya also wants to limit couples to having two kids and if they have an extra “by accident” the child would go to an LGBTQ+ community friendly adoption center.

This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at