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Congress 2014: Steve Knight campaign imploding, loses key endorsement

By on September 18, 2014
Senator Steve Knight

State Senator Steve Knight‘s once promising campaign for Congress is imploding.

The Antelope Valley Republican, who is competing against fellow Republican Tony Strickland for the 25th Congressional seat, lost a key endorsement Wednesday from prominent Democrat, Dr. Lee Rogers, who finished third in the June primary.

As a result of California’s Top 2 primary, both GOP candidates are courting the district’s Democrats, who are left without a candidate for the November election to replace Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Rogers: Democrats slapped in the face by Knight

Shortly after the primary, Rogers urged his fellow Democrats to support Knight, calling him “an honest man with integrity.” Now, Rogers says that he can’t in good conscience recommend Knight after an inexplicable turn to the far right following the primary.

“In a district where Democrats will decide the next representative, Knight has given Democrats nothing to vote for, and instead, everything to vote against,” Rogers said in a statement. “I consider Senator Knight a friend, but I’m just appalled at what appears to be his tone-deafness in regard to what our neighbors find appropriate.”

He added, “Democrats didn’t expect much from either Republican in this race, but we certainly didn’t expect to be slapped in the face.”

The last straw for Rogers: Knight’s embrace of controversial conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

Last Straw: Tim Donnelly precinct walk

As first reported by the Los Angeles Times’ Jean Merl, Donnelly urged his army of Tea Party supporters to walk precincts with him on behalf of Knight this weekend.

According to the LA Times, Knight “welcomed Donnelly’s help.”

Knight, who recently sparked controversy by voting, along with Donnelly, against a ban on selling images of the Confederate flag on state-owned sites, said Tuesday that he welcomed Donnelly’s help.

That campaign move stunned many political observers in Santa Clarita.

“I’m unsure why Knight would endorse a fringe character like Donnelly, much less trumpet his endorsement,” wrote SCVTalk’s Mike Devlin, a Santa Clarita blogger who has provided some of the best coverage of the competitive congressional race. “But I’m completely stumped as to why he’d actually invite Donnelly to town, at this point in an election which will likely be decided by as-yet-undecided Democratic voters.”

The following day, Knight’s story changed, saying “that he had never planned to join Donnelly in Saturday’s precinct walk and that he asked the assemblyman not to participate.” Again from the LA Times:

Knight said Wednesday that he had never planned to join Donnelly in Saturday’s precinct walk and that he asked the assemblyman not to participate. Knight said he has longstanding plans to campaign in Simi Valley at its “Simi Days” all day Saturday and Sunday.

“There was a little bit of crossed wires” between the two campaigns, Knight said. “He was trying to help and I’m appreciative of that.”

“There will be people walking” on his behalf this weekend but “Tim Donnelly will not be one of them,” Knight said. “I told him, ‘You’re not walking.’ “

Knight’s Flight Fib: Why he missed Ethics Day

This isn’t the first time that Knight’s conveniently changed his story after public criticism. In April, CalNewsroom.com reported that Knight lied about why he missed the State Senate’s ethics training. Based on information from the Senate President pro Tem’s office, the Associated Press reported that Knight’s “flight was canceled.”

“We were informed Sen. Knight’s flight was cancelled and that he wouldn’t be able to attend,” Rhys Williams, spokesman for the Senate President pro Tem’s office, told CalNewsroom.com.

There was just one problem with that version of events: Southwest Airlines, the preferred airline of California lawmakers, didn’t have any canceled California flights on April 23.

When pressed by CalNewsroom.com about that fact, Knight came clean, “I just missed my flight.”

SCVTalk Blog: ACLU view’s on Confederate flag vote

Another factor in Rogers’ decision to pull his endorsement was Knight’s opposition to a bill that would ban the sale of Confederate flag paraphernalia on state property.

“His recent vote supporting the sale of paraphernalia bearing the Confederate flag in California state buildings shows an insensitivity that is far out of touch with our district and California,” Rogers said in his statement. “He was one of only 3 legislators in the state to support the sale of these items.”

Knight has said that his vote put him on the same side as the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, SCVTalk’s Devlin tracked down Peter Eliasberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, who clarified the ACLU’s position:

Sensing a big misunderstanding, I reached out to Mr. Eliasberg and sent him text of the original and final bills. We spoke earlier today, and he clarified that his discussion with the reporter covered two types of restrictions: sales by individuals on state property (in the original bill, and unconstitutional) and sales by the state itself (in the final bill, and OK under the Constitution).

He made it clear that he doesn’t see a constitutional problem with the bill that passed because, “the state is allowed to sell what it wants.” Had the original bill passed, it would be a very different matter, of course.

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Disclosure: More than a decade ago, the author worked for Tony Strickland, but has not endorsed in this race. 

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About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for CalWatchdog.com, FlashReport.org, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.

2 Comments

  1. Kevin D. Korenthal

    September 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    As I stated elsewhere, I feel that even though John Hrabe has been forthcoming about his previous work with Strickland, his reporting on this particular race offers a bit of a conflict of interest. The extent of that conflict depends on to what degree CalNews has decided to editorialize against Knight and in favor of Strickland. Has this publican taken a tacit position on this Rep and Rep race via John’s columns? For the record, I am not employed nor am I a volunteer of any campaign associated with this race. I will however be voted for Senator Knight.

  2. Pingback: Congress 2014: Strickland +12, district flips to Democrats | CalNewsroom.com

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