MODESTO, Calif. – Chanting "Gary, Gary, Gary," supporters of Rep. Gary Condit brought a victorious smile to the face of the embattled congressman, who is fighting to keep his congressional seat after scandal turned former friends into competitors.
Condit was one of six Democrats who squared off in a one hour forum Sunday to discuss issues ranging from air pollution to labor unions. At no time during the debate did the name Chandra Levy emerge. Levy is the former Bureau of Prisons intern whom Condit allegedly had an affair with prior to her mysterious disappearance from Washington last April.
Condit, who presented himself as a man of the people, beamed as supporters chanted and hooted after each question.
"I want to tell you, there's one thing I know tonight that I didn't know some time ago," he said. "I know who my friends are."
Condit, however, is running behind a former aide, state assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, who has won the support of many popular and well-known state Democratic officials.
Cardoza, who said Condit's filling half the 240-person forum with his supporters turned the debate into a circus, left without shaking his mentor's hand.
Outside the union hall before the forum, Condit supporters staged a rally while anti-Condit forces, who have demonstrated for months outside his district office, held signs calling for Condit's resignation because of the Levy case.
Condit has said repeatedly that he had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance.
The primary is March 5.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.