After an unusually quiet primary season, congressional campaigning has heated up in Stanislaus County.
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham and Democratic challenger Jose Hernandez are ramping up their campaigns for the newly created 10th Congressional district, and accusations are beginning to fly.
Democrats, for example, have started phoning voters to blast Denham for his ties to Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate. The automated calls allege Denham supports a plan that "ends Medicare."
That's not true, Denham said during an interview this week at The Bee, but he said it's tough for complex facts to compete with catchy sound bites.
"That's what they're counting on," Denham said of his opponents. "They can go out and create a lot of hysteria and scare a lot of people."
To counter mischaracterization about his positions, Denham said he's going to walk precincts, hold town hall meetings, visit senior centers and talk with as many community groups as possible during this month's congressional recess.
"Campaigns are ugly and crazy and people will say some different things, but at the end of the day, I'm going to go out there and talk about what we are doing and why we're doing it," Denham promised.
One thing Denham said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "robo calls" are right about is his support for Ryan.
"He's a good friend," said Denham, relaying how he's "completely excited" about Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate. "He is an honest guy who has worked hard to get things done."
That includes coming up with "a very clear plan" to stop Medicare from going broke, Denham said.
"If you're 55 or older, there would be absolutely no change whatsoever to Medicare. But if you're under 55, then by 2024, you're going to have an opportunity to choose (a health care plan) or stay with the current plan," Denham explained. "It just gives people a choice."
Democrats don't see it that way.
"The Denham-Ryan plan turns Medicare into a voucher system that will cost Medicare recipients $6,400 a year in additional medical costs. It will also immediately raise prescription drug costs for current valley seniors," said Dan Krupnick, Hernandez's campaign spokesman.
Rather than simply criticizing Ryan's plan to save the financially ailing Medicare, Denham said he wishes Democrats would propose viable alternatives.
"If they don't like the plan that came out of the (House of Representative's) budget committee
then the Senate should come up with its own plan or the president should come up with his own," Denham said. "We all agree there's a problem, but there's only one House that showed leadership so far."
Denham, who rents a home in Turlock, and Hernandez, who rents a room in Modesto, have raised more than $2.6 million to promote their varying opinions between now and the Nov. 6 election.
The new 10th Congressional District includes Stanislaus County plus Escalon, Ripon, Manteca and Tracy. Its boundaries were redrawn to balance representation following the 2010 Census.
Denham currently represents part of Stanislaus and several other counties in the 19th Congressional District. Hernandez is a former astronaut who is making his first bid for public office.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.