Bryan Colebrook, a candidate for the Kern High School District board of trustees, stormed out of an on-air radio interview Tuesday afternoon, saying he had been "set up" by the host's persistent questions about a controversial campaign mailer.
Colebrook had been asked by KERN-AM radio host Ralph Bailey about a campaign ad Kern County Young Republicans mailed out last week that called attention to the fact that he is married with three children and that one of his opponents, Jenifer Pitcher, is unmarried and has no children.
Colebrook, according to Bailey's KERN blog, said "he would question the motives of a school board candidate who did not have children."
Bailey later said he thought it "was a pretty startling statement" by Colebrook and wanted to ask him more about it but Colebrook insisted on talking only about his opponent, Pitcher.
"I said, 'I’m 56 years old and I don't have children,'"Bailey said. "I said, 'does that make me unqualified?'"
Bailey said Colebrook "turned beet red and was literally, physically shaking," and leaned toward him.
Bailey abruptly ended the interview insisting he didn't feel safe.
"That's never happened in my career," Bailey later said. "I’ve gone at it with people, it’s who I am, it’s what I do … I’ve never felt unsafe in my own studio."
Attempts to reach Colebrook and his campaign consultant, Cathy Abernathy, were not immediately successful.
"I have extended an invitation to his campaign to come back on the show and explain his answer and his anger towards me, despite his claiming as he stormed out of our studio that he was 'set up,'” Bailey wrote on his blog.
The mailer in question, titled, "Who makes the grade? for Kern High School District," had already aroused Pitcher's ire. It features a grid depicting Colebrook and opponents Pitcher and Janice Graves, listing four criteria under each name: "political party" affiliation, "present job," "age" and "family." Colebrook, it notes under "family," is "Married with 3 children & 1 on the way." Pitcher is described as "Unmarried, no children," and Graves is a "Widow with 3 children." The mailer assigns each candidate a classroom-type letter grade: For Colebrook, an A+; for Pitcher, a C; for Graves, an F. It does not state why Pitcher rates a C and Graves an F in the nonpartisan race.
Pitcher fired back with a press release immediately after the flier hit mailboxes that charges Colebrook with "negative campaign tactics" targeting "both of his opponents, Jenifer Pitcher and Jan Graves."
"In a purely negative campaign tactic," according to the press release, "Colebrook attacked Pitcher for not having children. This is the kind of dirty campaigning voters are fed up with. ... Voters should decide who to vote for based on each candidate’s qualifications and background, not on how many children they presently have.”
Incumbent Phillip Peters, the current board president, is not seeking re-election. Peters has endorsed Colebrook.