MERCED, Calif. – Rep. Gary Condit participated in a candidates' form Friday, the first time he has faced the voters since the furor over his connection to missing intern Chandra Levy.
"I have been effective on your behalf," Condit told the audience of about 100. "And I'm going to ask you. I've helped you. I'm asking you to help me in March."
Condit shook hands before his address and flashed his signature smile, but at times he appeared uncomfortable, biting his nails and grinning uneasily.
In one of the few contentious moments of the event at The Branding Iron restaurant, Modesto Councilman Bill Conrad, whom Condit defeated in a previous campaign, lashed out at the Democratic congressman.
"Gary Condit should not be in Congress," Conrad said. "It's an embarrassment what he's done this summer, his attitudes and the things that happened."
Conrad's words were drowned out by boos from a handful of Condit supporters.
It has been more than eight months since Levy, a former federal intern, disappeared. She was last seen April 30 at a gym near her Washington apartment.
Condit didn't tell investigators he was having an affair with Levy until his third interview with police, more than two months after she vanished, police have said. He has denied any involvement in her disappearance and police say he is not a suspect.
At the mention of Levy's name after his speech Friday, Condit hustled through a parking lot, ignored further questions, got into a truck and left.
Condit is one of 12 congressional candidates. Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, who is considered Condit's leading rival, was absent from Friday's event.