The Washington Post

Gary Condit, scandal-scarred, returns to campaign trail (Catching up with ...)

(Courtesy of Chad Condit for Congress)

Who says there are no second acts? Eleven years after the Chandra Levy scandal drove former representative Gary Condit from office, he’s dipping his toes back into the brackish waters of politics. But not on his own behalf — the California Democrat’s been campaigning in parts of his old district for his son, Chad Condit, who is running as an independent in the recently redrawn 10th district.

Gary Condit, now 64, hasn’t given interviews in years. But here’s what we know about what he’s been up to since leaving Washington: He’s living in Ceres, Calif., and apparently isn’t considered too scandal-scarred to be a liability to Chad Condit’s scrappy campaign. He’s been walking precincts and attending events on the trail, we hear.

Condit even appears on his son’s campaign’s Facebook page, in a gallery of supporters holding signs proclaiming themselves as being “With Chad.” Condit and his wife are holding a sign that reads “We Have ALWAYS Been With CHAD — Mom & Dad.”

He’s written a book, though it doesn’t seem to have found a publisher yet. And when he’s not pounding the pavement for his son’s campaign, he has some business to occupy his time. His entrepreneurial spirit apparently hasn’t been dampened by previous bad luck (post-Congress, he ran Baskin-Robbins ice cream franchises that ended in failure and lawsuits), and is now the president of an organization called the Phoenix Institute of Desert Agriculture.

That’s “desert,” not “dessert.”

It’s a nonprofit devoted to bringing modern farming techniques to desert farming in the developing world, according to the group’s Web site (which is under development).

Gary Condit, of course, is best known for his affair with Washington intern Chandra Levy, who went missing in the summer of 2001 and whose remains were found a year later. While the six-term lawmaker was never named a suspect in the murder — and in 2010, another man was convicted of the grisly crime — suspicion surrounding him contributed to his defeat in the 2002 primary elections.

After leaving Congress, Condit, his wife, Carolyn, and Chad Condit opened two Baskin-Robbins stores in Arizona. In 2008, the company sued the family, seeking unpaid franchise and other fees. Ultimately, the Condits lost the breach-of-contract suit and were ordered to pay about $98,000.

Condit is no stranger to the courts: He settled a defamation suit against Vanity Fair in 2005 over a Dominick Dunne story and a libel suit in 2004 against the publisher of tabloids the National Enquirer, the Star and the Globe. He lost a 2007 suit against an Arizona newspaper and had to pay the paper’s $42,000 legal fees.

Still, Condit’s experience in the center ring of the Washington scandal circus might prove valuable to his son — and not just on the campaign, either. He’d at least be able to give advice to the novice politico, perhaps starting with the old chestnut, “avoid interns.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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