A low-budget Democrat says two-term congressman Duncan D. Hunter “seems overly sensitive for a former Marine” for declining to debate him in the 50th District race.
David Secor of Crest* and Republican Hunter of Lakeside will not debate Oct. 23 as first planned, both sides say. Negotiations broke down over the venue, moderator and format.
The heavily Republican district, formerly the 52nd but losing La Mesa, stretches from southern San Diego County into Riverside County.
Secor, 65, a former Superior Court employee, told Patch on Saturday that Hunter, 35, has “decided to walk away” from the debate.
“I’ve reset the debate for the same evening, Tuesday, October 23rd,” Secor said via email. “The venue will be in the San Marcos/Escondido/Fallbrook area. Once the location is set, Mr. Hunter, who now has that evening open, will be invited to meet his new constituents. If he refuses, the event will proceed without him.”
Dave Gilliard, a Sacramento-based political consultant representing Hunter, said:
“Mr. Secor is not being truthful. First, Rep. Hunter agreed to a debate in early October that was cancelled by the organizer. Then Rep. Hunter agreed to a debate on Oct. 23 at Cuyamaca College [in Rancho San Diego] with a traditional debate format and well-known local moderator chosen by the sponsors.
“Secor first demanded that the location be moved, then attacked the chosen moderator as being biased and finally demanded that any member of the audience be allowed to shout out questions without screening. That would be more of a riot than a true debate, so we declined and scheduled other campaign events for that day.”
Secor said his new debate proposal for North County would have a brief introduction, and then “the entire event will be questions from the audience with no filter. When location for event is set, it will be posted on my website, DavidSecorforCongress.com and publicized.”
But Gilliard said no Hunter-Secor debate will take place before Nov. 6, “due to Mr. Secor’s unreasonable demands.”
The breakdown in talks over the debate format and location gave Secor an opportunity to paint the incumbent as “overly sensitive for a former Marine.”
“I had no objections to a reasonable format,” Secor said. “My objections were to the congressman’s demand that he alone decide the format, and he alone defines ‘reasonable.’ His inability to discuss with me or make even the smallest compromise regarding something as simple as debate format make it clear why we have gridlock in Washington.”
A point of contention was having Steve Hamann as moderator. Hamann—a local auctioneer and editor of the weekly East County Herald, a photo publication—is biased toward Hunter, whom Secor says is a friend of the congressman.
Hamann was the moderator of the lone 2010 debate between Democrat Ray Lutz and Hunter at Cuyamaca College. In 2008, Hunter debated Democratic challenger Michael Lumpkin and Libertarian candidate Michael Benoit twice—at Grossmont College and Cuyamaca College.
“The congressman may call my remarks concerning the appropriateness of Mr. Hamann as moderator ‘disparaging,’” Secor said. “I have not heard him say any of them were not factual. If he denies their basis in fact, I’d appreciate advisal and after verification will retract them and apologize.”
Secor (pronounced SEA-core) said the “demand” that Hamann be moderator “shows an extreme lack of confidence in the congressman’s ability to operate in an uncontrolled environment. His refusal to even consider a truly nonpartisan moderator from the League of Women Voters speaks volumes.”
I made what I believed were good arguments during this ‘negotiation,’ certainly good enough to be considered. The congressman rejected each and every one without discussion. Still, I reluctantly aceeded to every demand. I felt it important that the voters (our potential employers) have the opportunity to see the two job applicants at the same venue even if I had no input as to format.
It’s disheartening to see the congressman, after having had everything his way, now cry foul, pick up the ball and go home. Should he decide that perhaps his potential employers deserve an opportunity to interview him before giving him this most important job, I’d be more than willing to appear with him.
Hunter’s decision to withdraw from the Oct. 23 debate apparently was signaled in an Oct. 8 email from consultant Gilliard to Secor: “In light of your objections to a reasonable format and disparaging remarks about the moderator, Rep. Hunter has decided he can use his time better elsewhere, talking directly to voters. The debate is off.”
In November, Secor met Hunter briefly at a small-business seminar in La Mesa, and Secor says Hunter told him he “looked forward” to a series of town hall forums. (See video attached.)
Hunter, the son of 28-year congressman Duncan Lee Hunter, joined the Marines the day after the 9/11 attacks and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was honorably discharged in December 2007.
As of June 30, Hunter had raised $692,950 and spent $612,313, according to the Federal Election Commission. Secor reported raising $145 and spending $150 between Sept, 29, 2011, and June 30, 2012.
*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong hometown for David Secor.