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Clark campaign takes an odd turn in 5th district

Ben Pershing

The saga of 5th district independent candidate Jeffrey Clark took an odd turn in recent days as the congressional hopeful had his personal finances exposed in the media and then sought to turn the tables on the source of the embarrassing information.

Clark is running as a decided underdog against freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D) and state Sen. Robert Hurt (R), trying to overcome his lack of political experience and campaign cash by reaching out to "tea party" groups and others who might consider Hurt insufficiently conservative to deserve their support. Most of the attention paid to Clark so far in the 5th -- which stretches from the Charlottesville area down to the North Carolina border -- has been in the context of the "debate over debates." Perriello wants Clark included in debates and Hurt doesn't.

Clark runs a water-testing company and a property-inspection business, and beyond those details, his personal background hadn't gotten much attention until this weekend. On Sunday, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville ran an in-depth story on Clark's finances, reporting that Clark "has left a trail of unpaid medical bills and other debt over the past two decades."

According to court records cited by the newspaper, Clark and his wife filed for bankruptcy in North Carolina in 1993 because of unpaid bills for medical services, property taxes and furniture purchases. Over the past decade, the paper said, the Clarks have also faced multiple legal claims for unpaid debts, mostly for medical bills. Clark explained that the 1993 bankruptcy followed his undergoing back surgery and an appendectomy, while this past April he had heart surgery. "We've struggled, like a lot of couples with children struggle," Clark explained, portraying his family as a typical one fighting to get by.

But the story didn't end there. Though all of the records cited by the Daily Progress appeared to be obtainable via various public records databases, Clark told local media outlets Monday that he suspected that one of the rival campaigns was behind the story. In fact, Clark said, he would be willing to drop out of the race altogether if the source of the report would just come out and reveal who they are and for whom they work.

"If that person steps forward, explains how they came into possession of these documents and says who paid for them, we will drop our candidacy," Clark told the Daily Progress. WSET, a local television station, reported that Clark said: "If someone will come forward and claim it and they can prove they have no connection to Senator Hurt's or either campaign for that matter, then we're willing to drop out of the race. I'm not saying that what Senator Hurt did was illegal. As a matter of fact, if he feels this was right, come out and embrace it, just say you did it."

A Hurt campaign spokeswoman told WSET: "We will not engage in Jeff Clark's delusional speculation of who done it." Perriello -- who will likely benefit if Clark does well in November -- denied any involvement. The Daily Progress, meanwhile, reported that "[d]ocuments related to Clark's history of debt have been floating around political circles" in the district and that the chairman of the Lynchburg Tea Party had previously warned Clark that his past bankruptcy would inevitably come out if he continued his campaign.

By Ben Pershing  |  September 1, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Robert Hurt , Tom Perriello  
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Comments

Thanks for covering the Independent Green Party of Virginia endorsee, conservative Jeff Clark, and U.S. Army veteran.

Jeff's son also is an Iraqi veteran.

Jeff and his family are patriots.

Here's what we've heard. It cost the other challenger, the Oil Party aka borrow and spend Party nominee about $10,000 to do that "op research".

They must really feel threatened by Jeff Clark.

Jeff Clark is like millions of Americans squeezed between pay check to pay check.

As Jeff Clark has said. He's an average Virginian. Never claimed to be anything else.

And for that very reason Jeff Clark understands the hardships of the Virginia voter. Jeff Clark has lived them.

For that reason alone Jeff Clark deserves your vote.

www.VoteJoinRun.US

Posted by: CareyCampbell | September 1, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

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