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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Many exit to protest Hayworth supporter

Many exit to protest Hayworth supporter
Casey Newton

The Arizona Republic
Oct. 22, 2006 12:00 AM Usually when you see voters leaving a candidate forum early these days, it's because they want to be home in time to catch Grey's Anatomy.

But the scores of people fleeing Temple Beth Israel in northeast Phoenix last week had an unusual reason for their flight. They had just been deeply insulted, they said, by a man representing a candidate hoping to win their votes.

"It was just such hatred," said Linda Bliss, a Phoenix resident who attended the Tuesday event. "It was so disgusting."
The offending remarks came from Jonathan Tratt, who was chosen by the campaign of J.D. Hayworth to represent Hayworth at a forum sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women.

The Hayworth campaign on Saturday expressed regrets for the remarks.

Tratt declined to comment about his remarks, which were confirmed
to The Arizona Republic by seven attendees who were interviewed separately. One of those witnesses, Republic columnist Kathy Shayna Shocket, moderated the event.

After provoking the audience on several occasions, Tratt, who is Jewish, told the audience that in some ways Hayworth is a "more observant Jew" than the Jews at the forum. Hayworth is a Christian.

The remark drew a chorus of boos from the audience, about three-quarters of whom promptly stood up and walked out of the synagogue. Tratt's remark was made in the context of Hayworth's opposition to abortion, witnesses said. Tratt suggested that anti-abortion views are more consistent with Jewish values than pro-abortion views. Tratt's wife, Irit, made similar remarks.

The incident is gaining widespread national attention from political Web logs, including Wonkette, the American Prospect's TAPPED and Daily Kos. Hayworth is in a close race for re-election in the 5th Congressional District with Democrat Harry Mitchell, a former state senator and longtime mayor of Tempe.

Jonathan Tratt is a real estate investor and political fund-raiser from Paradise Valley who has contributed more than $77,000 to Republicans and Democrats since 1999.

The evening, which first featured a forum between Republican Sen. John Kyl and Democratic challenger Jim Pedersen, had been contentious from the beginning. Mitchell's campaign said it had expected Hayworth to attend and objected to having two people speaking for Hayworth when Mitchell only got one: himself.

After some discussion, Mitchell agreed to the format.

Witnesses said some people left the event shortly after Tratt began describing the gruesome death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by terrorists.

Witnesses said Tratt insulted the audience's intelligence, telling jeering audience members that they might have different opinions if they were more educated.

Hayworth's campaign said the Tratts were goaded by a continually heckling crowd.

Bob Schechter, an audience member and Hayworth supporter unaffiliated with the campaign, agreed. "They were attacked before they even had a chance to say anything," Schechter said.

Still, the Hayworth campaign expressed regrets.

"Prior to speaking, our volunteers were bullied, badgered and insulted," said Brian Hummell, a Hayworth spokesman who attended the event. "Although clearly provoked, it doesn't excuse what was said, and we regret that anyone was offended."

Mitchell's campaign called on Hayworth to apologize.

"He owes and apology to the people in the room, the Jewish community and the people of this district," said Seth Scott, a campaign spokesman.


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