Son of ex-Rep. Gary Condit runs for Congress

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 1, 2012 

WASHINGTON — Chad Condit, the son and chief public defender of a former high-profile California congressman once tarnished in a media frenzy, has now entered a congressional race of his own.

With the quiet unveiling of a campaign web site, Condit has announced his candidacy as an independent in the newly redrawn House of Representatives district based around his hometown of Ceres, Calif.

"Most of what is wrong with Washington is partisanship," Condit declares on his campaign web site. "The best way to end the partisanship is to elect independent candidates who are not connected to either the Republicans or the Democrats."

Neither Condit nor a campaign spokesperson could be reached to comment Thursday.

Condit's entry throws a new wrinkle — and some potential tabloid zing — into the race for the California's redrawn 10th Congressional District. Although he has not been locally active for some time, his name recognition may still be high thanks in part to the legacy of his father, former congressman Gary Condit.

The senior Condit held a variety of positions in the state's San Joaquin Valley, culminating in his election to the House of Representatives in 1989.

Gary Condit left office in 2002 after he was tarnished in the disappearance of former intern Chandra Levy, then defeated in the Democratic primary by his one-time ally, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, of Atwater, Calif. During the most intense media swarming over the Levy case, it often fell to Chad Condit to speak up on his father's behalf.

"Anybody who has been relying on news accounts for this case has probably got it wrong," Chad Condit told CNN interviewer Larry King in one characteristic 2001 appearance. "Gary Condit's been forthcoming with the D.C. police from the beginning. There's no honor in kicking someone when they're down."

Gary Condit ultimately testified in the 2010 trial of the man charged with killing Levy, Ingmar Guandique. The former congressman refused to answer questions on the witness stand about the specific nature of his relationship with Levy, though the prosecutor called it an affair.

Incumbent Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican, already is facing off against Democratic challenger Jose Hernandez, a former astronaut, in the 10th Congressional District.

A second Democrat, long-shot Mike Barkley, also has advanced his candidacy sufficiently to file with the Federal Election Commission. Until now, though, the political attention has focused on Denham, a freshman who has $809,527 on hand, and Hernandez, who had $130,527 available as of Dec. 31.

Hernandez is being touted as a top contender by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"It's very bad news for the (Democrats') anointed candidate, Jose Hernandez," Denham's campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said of Condit's entry. "Jeff Denham will continue to rack up local support while Chad Condit and Jose Hernandez battle over who gets to lose to him in November."

Amber Moon, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises money for House candidates, countered that Hernandez is a "problem-solver, not an ideologue, whose story appeals to Democrats, Republicans and independents alike."

Condit does not appear to have filed a campaign finance report, according to the Federal Election Commission's web site. Candidates don't have to file a report until they have raised or spent at least $5,000.

At present, Condit's Internet campaign presence is relatively bare-bones; it cites his Navy service and includes calls to "bring our troops home" and an intention to "promote a positive position for agriculture."

In recent weeks, local San Joaquin Valley officials report they have been contacted concerning a potential Condit candidacy. Condit has not previously held elected office, though he has periodically worked as a legislative staffer and as a gubernatorial assistant.

Along with his family, Condit also helped run two Baskin-Robbins stores in Arizona, until the chain successfully sued the Condits for failing to meet their franchise obligations.

"I wanted to do it right for them," Chad Condit testified during the one-day trial in 2007, a court transcript shows. "I liked the product. I liked the ice cream. I wanted to be a good franchisee."

Condit, 44, is married and has three children.

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