By Scott Mobley
Rep. Wally Herger has called off a debate with Democratic challenger Jim Reed scheduled later this month.
Reed, a Fall River Mills attorney, was supposed to debate Herger at the KIXE studios in Redding on Oct. 25.
Dave Gilliard, a Rocklin-based consultant who is managing Herger's campaign, said he canceled the debate today after Reed refused to apologize for spreading rumors the 12-term Republican may be suffering a mental disease.
"I've been running campaigns over 25 years in California and I consider this the lowest, most vile attack I've ever seen," Gilliard said.
Reed said he has nothing to apologize for, adding he believes Herger is using the accusation as an excuse to duck the debate.
"I wasn't the one that brought it up," Reed said. "The rumors are out there and everyone is hearing about it. We were discussing it."
Jim Swanson, who created the Progressive News Daily blog, questioned whether Herger is "mentally fit to be re-elected" in a blog post on Sept. 27. Swanson interviewed Reed for his Progressive News Radio the next day.
Reed has posted links to Swanson's blog post and a pod cast of his radio interview with Swanson on his campaign website.
Asked by Swanson about Herger's mental state, Reed said Charlie Schaupp and Col. Pete Stiglich, both Republicans, told him they'd heard rumors Herger had a medical condition.
Schaupp has said the rumors aren't true and he later urged Reed not to use them. Stiglich never referred to the rumors in his campaign against Herger during the June primary, Reed told Swanson.
Reed told Swanson he had no way himself of knowing if the rumors are true.
"I'm hoping the rumors are incorrect," Reed told Swanson. "If the rumors are incorrect, I think Wally has a beautiful opportunity to prove it by debating me."
Herger's opponents have had trouble getting the Congressman to debate them.
Herger declined to debate Stiglich during the campaign leading to the June primary, saying he would not engage a fellow Republican.
Reed had first asked Herger for debates in Redding, Chico and Yuba City in August and early September, during the Congressional break. Herger, through his spokesman, declined, saying summer debates were too early. But the Herger campaign agreed to an October date.
The League of Women Voters and the Chico Enterprise-Record scheduled an Oct. 6 debate in Chico. But Herger's spokesman said the Congressman had a schedule conflict. His campaign offered to send a representative instead.
Herger agreed to a live, televised debate with Reed on Oct. 25. But that's just a week before the election, Reed said -- well after many absentee voters will have sent in their ballots.
Herger accepted the KIXE debate shortly after Reed posted the Swanson links on his campaign website. But a couple days later, Gilliard threatened to cancel if Reed left the rumor-mongering links in place.
Reed has refused to remove them.
"Go to my website and see for yourself if I have anything to apologize for," Reed said.
Herger will not debate Reed in Redding or at another late October event tentatively scheduled for a city in the southern part of the district, Gilliard said.
"I would not get on the same stage as someone who would stoop that low," said Gilliard. "It's one thing to get into a debate and challenge each other on issues but it's another when you go on a radio interview and spread rumors your opponent has a mental disease. That's unacceptable."