Acrimony and Threats Dog Stark at Town Halls

Supporters of possible Tea Party independent candidate for Congress Chris Pareja hold a demonstration last Saturday morning before Rep. Pete Stark’s town hall meeting in Hayward. 

By Steven Tavares

As his constituents shuffled into the Hayward City Hall chambers Saturday morning, the first thing they saw was Rep. Pete Stark dressed casually in an orange button-up shirt and khakis. He was propped on a stool like an animatronic statesman. He smiled and greeted a few as the took the seats in the first few rows. Steve Kemp, the now famous Golden Gate Minuteman who Stark asked last month at another town hall meeting whether he had killed anybody that day, was back with his video camera hoping to capture another quip sure to rile the Tea Party patriots around the country (he may have).

Seated next to Kemp was Tim Goeppner, a Hayward resident who calls himself a political activist. With a shaved head and goatee Goeppner has the look of a someone you don’t want to mess with, although his bespectacled eyes lend themselves to a man in his forties past his brawling prime, meaning his bark nowadays is better utilized than his bite.

Ten minutes before the first of two town hall meetings in his district, Stark scanned the filling room that would eventually hit its 160-person capacity. Stark’s attention turned towards Kemp and Goeppner who were positioning their cameras nearby with small, unobtrusive single-legged stands. As one of Stark’s aides passed by, he motioned him over. The aide leaned in and Stark ostensibly gave him instructions to remove the camera stands. The aide paused and politely asked both men to not use the accessory during the meeting. Both gave no outward sense of disagreement and began twisting them loose.

Stark congenially spoke up and joked to the men, “It’s so you don’t hit me over the head with it,” he said with a wide grin. Goeppner glared at the congressman for a second and said, “I don’t need a camera to do that.” The aide later said he clearly heard Goeppner’s comment, assessed the situation and determine the threat benign. After the 90-minute meeting, Goeppner said the much-publicized video of Stark disparaging one of his constituent so incensed him that he was compelled to see Stark in person. He denied the remark was a threat and when asked if he thought the the group inside represented a small minority of the 13th Congressional District, he said no. “He gets re-elected because he has all the illegals voting for him,” Goeppner said.

It was kind of like that all morning as primarily conservative and Tea Party activists barraged Stark with an unfettered litany of catcalls and insults primarily in Hayward, but also to some extent at his next stop at Alameda’s City Hall.

“You’re delusional!”

“You’re senile!”

“What is it about freedom you don’t like?”

“You have gone off the rails!” various people said in Hayward.

One woman who only described herself as a nurse in her forties from Alameda continually levied a barrage of invective at Stark that eventually tested the patients of the calmer, smaller group of about 50 in Alameda.

“You’re an idiot,” she said, body curled on a seat in the front row of the chamber no more than seven feet away from her target.

“Fool!” she later added and “I hope you get your butt kicked out of office.”

Two police officers in Alameda and Stark’s staff, though, let the woman continue to interrupt the proceedings, but in some ways the congressman with nearly 40 years of experience on Capitol Hill has made himself a target of such vitriol with biting rejoinders of his own on display on YouTube and also apparent Saturday.

When the same woman questioned Stark about a part of the health care reform he snidely asked her, “Did you learn that in nursing school?” Another time after she become utterly incorrigible, he made the off-cuff remark to others in attendance, “Every so often there’s reapportionment, so someone else might get her.”

In Hayward, a man interrupted Stark saying, “You’re talking in circles, Pete.” The response ignited a few chuckles. Stark shot back, “Your reasoning may be circular, but you’ll catch up.” The comebacks, though strengthen a strong feeling among Tea Party activists that Stark has little respect for their opinions and give fuel to the idea prevalent among conservatives that elite liberals have a systematic disdain for their ideology.
“We did not vote for a king. We expect him to treat us with respect,” said Chris Pareja, who needs to gather 9,500 signatures by Aug. 6 to oppose Stark on the November ballot as a Tea Party independent. An hour before the Hayward town hall, Pareja and over 30 people carried signs in protest of Stark’s recent bad behavior in addition to his part in recent landmark health care reform bill. Pareja encouraged the group to not let Stark “berate and belittle you,” while also calling for him to issue an apology to Kemp for his comments last month. “People want to stand up against what I call out of control government,” said Pareja, who believes the anger felt by the Tea Party is also prevalent among others in the district further to the left of the political spectrum.
Stark may have made news in the coming days for some of America’s most popular conservative talking heads when Kemp’s cameras captured him saying “the federal government can do anything it wants.” The comments drove a few into a uncontrollable rage, but Stark did not flinch as three people pressed him on the comment. Stark eventually clarified his statement arguing citizens are protected by the Constitution. “If the government does something unconstitutional that would be under review,” but many in Hayward appear to view the federal government as more a monolith than friend these days.

Although very few at the town halls voiced much liberal backup for Stark, a few shouted at Tea Partiers to allow Stark to answer questions. In Alameda, a thin elderly man stood and addressed Stark and the group with a clearly enunciated Northeastern accent saying, “I thank you for putting up with this imbroglio,” he then directed his statement to the belligerent woman in front to her dismay. “Ma’am, I am appalled by your manners.” Another said he often times disagreed with Stark’s politics, but agreed the demeanor of many in attendance was disrespectful to a member of congress. It was not only the opinion of Stark who elicited rancor from the group. A woman who identified herself as a member of SEIU was shouted down by people in Hayward when she spoke. “Lock her out of the room,” a man was overheard saying to his neighbor.

Some part of Stark’s irritation with points of view incongruent with his own and exhibited at recent town hall meetings may stem from numerous either uninformed or preposterous declarations brought forth. One man with a handle bar mustache and black Harley Davidson t-shirt insisted the health care bill gave the federal government the authority to track his personal bank account. When Stark protested that no such provision existed, the man continued by saying the faux surveillance measure also used global-positioning software to track the accounts of Americans. Another woman in Alameda assured Stark the same bill included a provision forcing people who purchase more than $600 worth of gold to report it to the government. “Is this 1933 with F.D.R.?” she proclaimed. “Are they going to confiscate our gold now?” Stark assured the woman no provision existed in the health care bill, but the woman insisted and vowed to return next month armed with the offending section of the new law. “Oh, uh huh,” Stark slowly said, “I’ll look forward to that.”

Categories: Alameda, Chris Pareja, congress, Hayward, Mintemen, Pete Stark, Steve Kemp, Tea Party, townhall

30 replies

  1. First off, Stark probably doesn't feel any threat at all, be it violence nor a defeat in November; he's to arrogant to go there.

    The old timer who was appalled by the one womans manners is your typical double standard; it's ok for an elected official to be so brash, but a voter…we can't have that.

    And lastly…Stark is loving this, it's fueling him and perhaps could be working. His voters outnumber his opponents and this will probably backfire on the opposition. He'll use this as an opportunity to say that the right or the tea party or independents are crazy / paranoid.

    I applaud folks for going to these, I have resigned myself to it, it just gets my blood boiling and I'd end up saying something uncivil and mean. I'd rather do that here, so you all can discuss and the old man is spared.

    From what I've read and heard, theres nothing that this man can't handle at these meetings…the King feels no shame, no threat and no regret.


  2. Nicholas you are correct, Stark does not feel threatened by these folks. Manners aside, your choice of brash is interesting. I was there and the sound from the assembled was more akin to shouting and screaming and reminded me of the actions of the Brownshirts and the White Hooded Ones than Californians.

    The vituperative and inconstant rants from the finders of Communists and Aliens over, under and through every aspect of life today are indicative of the pathetic state of the opposition to Representative Stark.

    There must be an intelligent person out there to run against Representative Stark. You are correct to say that he has not done much to represent us, but who else is out there to support.

    These rabid haters are certainly not it.


  3. Do your homework before writing, please. The woman in Alameda who was talking about the provision forcing people who purchase more than $600 worth of gold to report it to the government was precisely correct, and Stark had no freaking idea of what she was talking about.

    From ABC News:

    “Section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will amend the Internal Revenue Code to expand the scope of Form 1099. Currently, 1099 forms are used to track and report the miscellaneous income associated with services rendered by independent contractors or self-employed individuals … Starting Jan. 1, 2012, Form 1099s will become a means of reporting to the Internal Revenue Service the purchases of all goods and services by small businesses and self-employed people that exceed $600 during a calendar year. Precious metals such as coins and bullion fall into this category and coin dealers have been among those most rankled by the change.”

    Stark didn't read the bill. Stark is a contemptuous idiot who has no business representing anyone.


  4. Two Points
    1. If illegals are voting for Stark, that is corruption. If Stark condones their voting for him, then Stark is corrupt.
    2. It is quite possible that a complete unknown, as in the South Carolina primary for senator, will replace Stark in the fall election. Not because he is a Democrat, but because he is a lifetime professional politician who is arrogant and out of touch with the electorate.


  5. Pete Stark has to go. He has lost touch with the reality of California and the best interest of the voters.

    It was mentioned this morning in the radio, by many attendees, that Stark appeared to be “sedated”, perhaps it was mistaken for his arrogance which may have morphed into absolute senility.

    It is hard to believe that this political jerk has been in office for 30 years. What are the voters in his district thinking?

    He must be removed from office. It is a travesty that he remains in his position.


  6. S. Walker, Pete Stark will be re-elected.

    Illegals can't vote…so like you said, if they are, that's corrupt.

    Michael Moore, will this district elect a Republican? I doubt it. Is the Republican running this year better then Stark? Possibly. Should we start electing NEW faces, regardless of party (but on principals)? YES! Will the district? No.


  7. Pete Stark was voted in to office by those who supported a Democrat who was opposed to the Vietnam war. He was elected because the Republicans inherited LBJ's War, who had inherited JFK's War, who inherited Ike's War. Harry Truman would not have involved us in that war but he was termed out and was stuck in Korea anyway.

    Getting us out of Afghanistan is the most important thing that can happen today.


  8. Nicholas, you are right, no Republican can win in this district. Do you really think there is such thing as a good politician? Get real. In order to become a politician you have to risk a lot for a vote. It is a better system than other countries have. Our focus should be narrow, our immediate community, and deep to the ethics that make America great.


  9. Ummmm.

    There are no cries for an exit strategy? You all, including the media, pounded Bush for one, but now we hear crickets when it comes to asking O about ending the war. Hypocrisy!

    Where’s his victory plan? That's right, we don't use that word, it might hurt the loser’s feelings!

    Gitmo is still open. Promise not kept.

    Iraq, we're still fighting. Promise not kept. Gave the order to end it…nothing yet, not even a real plan.

    Afghanistan, no end in sight. Promise not kept (although he DID send two additional brigades to Afghanistan). No plan yet.

    Lies all around and the only people saying anything are called crazy.

    The economy & jobs is MOST important.

    Pete Stark inherited the worst Congress from…wait, Pete Stark.


  10. Yes. There are good, decent people willing to be good, decent politicians. I disagree that you have to chose something over the will of the people. You certainly become a salmon marching upstream against a huge current, but it's been done.

    I agree on the narrow focus…but even on a local level, here, it's difficult to elect the decent folk who arent in someones pocket or capable of it.

    America has yet to find the leader it needs.


  11. I was there too and totally agree that Stark loves the fight, but I disagree that he was sedated. He was the same old Pete I've always seen. As far as his opponent being better for the district, I would suggest checking out Forest Baker. He's a communist and I'm not throwing out insults. This is the sorry state of the local Republican party. For godsakes they nominated a guy who wants to split areas into communes.


  12. Anoher thing I'm glad the author cut out all the mention of securing our borders which was constantly mentioned at this meeting. It has nothing to do with Alameda County. We are not anywhere near a border! It just shows that most of the people there were either watching too much Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh or weren't even from the area. It's an important issue but not solely Pete's to handle and in the end he was hardly able to talk about anything of importance.


  13. Not since the halcyon days of 911 has there been a clear will of the people of the United States who can vote. Representative Stark needs only to convince half of the 30% of registered voters to gain election. Then all that is necessary is not to irritate those folks. He is not much different than any other politician. Those who cannot stand the heat quit, claiming either family or finances or honor. Not much honor in public service, but then the public, as represented by the Virulent Few do not merit much. We are reaping what we have sown. We must speak a with a clear voice. That voice should start with getting out of Afghanistan Now. There is no honor in staying and no one can sully the sacrifice of our Warriors there now or their service. Get them out now. We should be using our Warriors where they are wanted and needed.


  14. Michael Moore, love your movies, Capitalism: A Love Story, not as much. Pete Stark is one of only a handful who have consistently called for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


  15. How do you know that the Michael Moore who posted is the filmmaker?


  16. It's not Michael Moore. It was Tony Santos


  17. Sounds like something Santos would do.


  18. MM:

    When President Obama comes up with a plan…we'll exit. Until then, he won't because he needs to play to the pro-war base…YES, he's playing politics with lives. Or just plan arrogant, incompetent and ignorant.


  19. To Michael Moore, Your portrayal of TAXPAYING CITIZENS hollering in frustration at the either very real or acting senile of the congressman, is far from reality. As one of the people in the room, I am highly offended by your typical use of lies and comparison to real radicals and totalitarians, in portraying anyone who disagrees with the Progressive agenda.

    And to the author of this misnamed to distract from the reality of the meeting, article, You make the CITIZENS AND TAXPAYERS who are fed up with the Congressman's anti-American voting record, pompous and mocking attitude, plus his out and out LIES, look as if they were violent, which they certainly were NOT. The only threat was to vote the man out of the office he dishonors.

    To both Mr. Moore and Mr. Tavares, IF you want to see real violence and threats, as you very well know, I suggest you go to a Open Borders Protest and film the leftist radicals as they spew real hatred over loud speakers, OR see the website for video of the type of people the Congressman shares progress ideology with. Then compare the behavior of the left to that of citizens who attended the Townhall meeting, which you both so aggressively misrepresent.


  20. Amen, Mary!


  21. Mary, you said a wonderful piece.


  22. OK: here it is Pete Stark will be reelected but the GOP wll take the House in November. Mr. Stark will fnd himself censured by the new GOP Congress for his arrogant and hateful comments. The Democrats will either force him to retire or run a new face against him in two years.


  23. Wilderness:

    I wish your prediction were possible, but theres no way they'd censure him, let alone force him to resign; look at Rep. Rengel…he's the poster boy for term limits and nothing will happen.

    Stark will not seek re-election, that is more likely.


  24. Mary, how aggressive your slurs against our Congressman and your fellow citizens!

    I frankly have no idea what you're referring to when you claim that Representative Stark has an “anti-American voting record”. I'd ask you to name the votes he has made which are “anti-American”.

    What you're talking about in your comment are not acts of treason by a Congressman, but your political disagreements with a Representative who has won re-election more than a dozen times. It's dangerous to play around with terms like “anti-American” and “the office he dishonors” when it comes to political disagreements. If the majority of the public agreed with you and your movement, then Pete would have been voted out of office by our patriotic citizenry. If you feel that the citizens of the 13th CD are unpatriotic, then I'm REALLY worried about your movement.

    Along with some of the other words you use in your comment, you do paint the picture of representing a movement which might use violence, either personal or state-sponsored, to snuff out dissent if it gained majority power. It's clear that you're very angry towards those you disagree with.

    You also seem to rise in defense of people who shout down a member of the House of Representatives while he attempts to answer questions, and who believe that members of the public who disagree with their conservative POV should also be shouted down and “locked out of the room”. Regardless of how angry Stark's responses make you, do you really defend all the behaviors and claims of the Tea Party-representing public that are reported in these stories?


  25. Sarah you are a certifiable loony bird. First of all it's the Stark backers who flood his town hall meetings and shout down other people. It's the minority of morons around here who are more interested in mooching off of the government than making an honest buck who re-elect Stark. Stark has admitted he “was a Communist in Russia”. Quit smoking the zig zags lady, you've already destroyed whatever brain cells you had left.


  26. Chris Pareja, is running for congress in the 13th district. He would like to unseat Pete Stark. If you would like to help him, sign the petition to get him on the ballot. He is running as an independent and needs over 9000 signatures. He already has a group of volunteers working on his behalf who have gotten signatures. He needs your signature too. The petition drive will be located this weekend, July 31st and August 1st, at the Fremont Art and Wine Festival. Come and meet Chris. Help him defeat Pete Stark. With a grassroots effort, he can. You can also get petitions by going to his website, or emailing We can do it but we need to do it together. Please sign the petition for Chris Pareja. Chris is endorsed by the TriCity Tea Party Patriots and the Golden Gate Minutemen. He has also been recognized by the National Tea Party Coalition.


  27. I applaud anyone running against Stark, but trying to gather 9500 votes seems like an impossible task; why didnt he run as a Republican?


  28. Sarah, great response. I'm reminding of what Jon Stewart said of Republican after losing the presidency, it's not tyranny, it's called you lost the election.


  29. John Stewart is a putz. Tyranny is not losing the election, Trranny is Barack Hussein Obama and his couple dozen Marxist Czars, his taking over of the auto industry, banks and insurance companies, all the while ignornant people think it's “Great”.


  30. Why don't you ask Chris Pareja why he chose to campaign for congress in the 13th district as an independent. Come to the Fremont Art and Wine Festival on Saturday or Sunday and meet Chris. He will explain his reasoning behind choosing to run as an independent and not a republican. Find out too where he stands on the issues. Check out his website at and go to the TriCity Tea Party Patriots website and read about Chris Pareja too. With the two choices you have running right now, you will want to get Chris on the ballot. Chris Pareja is a breath of fresh air and what our district needs.The other two candidates will take us down a road to socialism.


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