Karen Mathews Davis, former clerk-recorder of Stanislaus County, will challenge Jerry McNerney for his congressional seat based largely in San Joaquin County, she announced Thursday.
Mathews Davis survived a 1994 assault at her Modesto home after defying demands by tax protesters, nine of whom were convicted of crimes related to the attack after an 18-month investigation. She received renewed threats as late as December but decided to push ahead with plans for her campaign, she said.
“I would hate to give in to bullying and terrorism. I guess I’m too stubborn to let that happen,” said Mathews Davis, 65. She now lives in Lodi, where she runs a small business with her husband of nine years, George Davis, a retired dentist.
McNerney, 62, a Democrat, has served in Congress since defeating Republican incumbent Richard Pombo in 2006 and now represents the 9th Congressional District, which includes Lathrop, part of Escalon, and portions of Contra Costa and Sacramento counties.
Mathews Davis was a Democrat when she lived in Stanislaus County but switched to Republican a few years ago. She said McNerney comes down on the wrong side of issues such as health care reform and immigration.
“If I’m elected, I would want to watch Modesto’s back as well as District 9 because I have a real love of the (Modesto) area,” she said.
Born and raised in Stockton, Mathews Davis was city clerk in Manteca from 1981-84 and Stanislaus County’s clerk-recorder from 1990-2001, winning three elections. She refused demands in 1993 from a fringe anti-tax group to remove a $416,000 IRS property lien and received verbal and written threats, including one reading: “THE NEXT BULLET WILL BE DIRECTED AT YOUR HEAD!!!”
In January 1994, she was ambushed in her garage by a man who punched and kicked her, cut her with a knife and put a revolver to her head, pulling a trigger three times on an empty chamber. Mathews Davis eventually revealed that she also was sexually assaulted.
Roger Steiner of Oregon was convicted of the assault and sent to federal prison, and recently was released to a halfway house in the Fresno area. He called The Modesto Bee last week and complained about being “railroaded” in the press, saying, “I’m the victim, not Karen Mathews. I was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years.”
Mathews Davis said federal authorities are investigating the recent threats, which gave her pause about re-entering politics after all these years.
“My husband and I talked a lot and decided I need to move forward,” she said. “Terrorist threats didn’t work with me in 1994, and they’re not going to work with me today.”
Mathews Davis changed parties in the early 2000s after determining that less government, fewer taxes and the anti-abortion tenets of the Republican Party better suited her beliefs.
She said McNerney “dropped the ball on Stockton” in its moment of need, when the city filed for bankruptcy. She said she would not have voted for the Affordable Care Act if she had been in office, and she favors doubling border guards to curb illegal entry before tackling immigration reform. She said she would bring new energy to economic development efforts in Stockton and the Port of Stockton, where her father once worked, and would be a champion for Valley agriculture.
A McNerney spokeswoman said Thursday that he was not available to comment.
“We’re facing some major challenges,” Mathews Davis said. “I’d like to be part of the answers to those issues.”
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.