In CA-11, Jerry McNerney took the Democratic nomination. He will face “Paid-for” Pombo in the general election. We’ve been following the CA-11 race here at Calitics for a long time, more so recently due to the recent comments of Filson. I posted a diary both at Calitics and at dKos about the bullshit surrounding the triangulation theories playing out in this race. I’d like to go through this a little and make the proposition that Jerry McNerney is our Tester, a progressive leader that is simultaneously electable and responsive to his Democratic base. For more on Tester, check out dKos.
So, a brief background on the race would probably be helpful here. Jerry McNerney ran a campaign that got a late start in 2004. He struggled to build a campaign structure for that race, going so far as to mortgage his house in order to run a decent campaign. In the end, he garnered about 39% of the vote, a respectable figure against a well-funded incumbent. Of course, at that point Richard Pombo was merely an unremarkable Congressman with a penchant for hyperbole, or outright lying, depending on how you see fit to describe it. The 11th district isn’t your typical Bay Area district, it has its soul in San Joaquin county. It previously had more Democrats, but the Democratic heart of Stockton was shifted from what is now the 11th to what is now the 18th. This was due to the Gary Condit scandal. Legislative Democrats wanted Condit to retire so that the Democrats could retain his seat in the 18th District, now held by Blue Dog Valleycrat Dennis Cardoza. Thus, the 11th now has a substantial Republican registration advantage.
Now, Jerry McNerney didn’t give up after 2004. He knew that Richard Pombo was not the right man to be representing the 11th. And then came the candidacy of Pete McCloskey, a “moderate” Republican. (Sidenote: It’s probably just as well McCloskey didn’t win. The man has had some problems with attacking the Jewish community and a touch of Holocaust denial, specifically saying, “I listened to speeches about the courage of men who have spoken out against the commonly accepted concept of what occurred during the Second World War in the so-called Holocaust.” Yikes! That’s more than a bit scary.) Whatever McCloskey did or did not say, one thing is clear: he riled up the moderate Republicans who had grown weary of Pombo. The GOP Ex-Congressman who challenged Pombo in this year’s primary, accused Pombo of a litany of wrongs, including:
Why Retire Pombo?
• Pombo has been named by non-partisan watchdog groups as:
• "One of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress"-COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON (CREW)
• "One of the first six inductees to the Congressional Hall of Shame" - PUBLIC CITIZEN
• Richard Pombo is among the top recipients of money from admitted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. (Source: Time)
• Pombo owes his chairmanship of the House Resources Committee to indicted former majority leader Tom DeLay. Pombo, who votes in lockstep with DeLay 92% of the time, actively tried to change House Ethics Rules to protect DeLay (House Resolution 5) and donated thousands of dollars to the DeLay legal defense fund.
• Pombo used his official powers to protect a large donor, Charles Hurwitz, thwarting a Federal investigation in what federal regulators called, "a seamy abuse of the legislative process." (Source: LA Times 1/8/06) (PeteMcCloskey.com)
These allegations and plenty more were made by a Republican. It lends credibility that may not have existed if it were only coming from the Democratic candidates. The Wall Street Journal picked up on the story too:
In one of the year's most improbable races, the 78-year-old former congressman has jumped back into politics in a long-shot bid to oust House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo here in Tuesday's Republican primary. Few give Mr. McCloskey much chance of success as he tours the San Joaquin Valley in his red, white and blue van…."The Republican leadership in the House has abandoned ethics, they've abandoned the concept of balanced budgets, they've abandoned the concept of limited government," Mr. McCloskey tells his conservative host, Bill Mick. House leaders are "dead wrong" in resisting the recent Justice Department criminal search of one lawmaker's office, and Congress should begin to pull troops out of Iraq as proposed by his fellow Marine, Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.).
Environmentalists, angered by Mr. Pombo's direction of the Resources Committee, are pouring money into efforts to help the McCloskey campaign, and Democrats hope the challenge will open the door for them against Mr. Pombo in the November election. (WSJ 6/1/06)
And open the door it has. In a recent Defenders of Wildlife poll, both Democrats were leading Congressman Pombo. And even Rep. McCloskey has said that he would prefer the Democrat over Pombo. So, this brings us all back to who do we want to take on Congressman Pombo. Jerry McNerney worked hard for a long time to restore dignity to the 11th District. However, once the DCCC discovered that Pombo was vulnerable they brought their own man in:
Democrats are having their own identity crisis in the 11th District. Jerry McNerney, who lost to Mr. Pombo in 2004, still enjoys the support of liberal activists.
But House Democrats want a more moderate face: Steve Filson, a Navy veteran and United Airlines pilot who situated his campaign headquarters in the San Joaquin Valley as a direct challenge to Mr. Pombo's base.
A Republican-turned-Democrat, Mr. Filson says his politics were changed by United's labor struggles, and warns that just running against Mr. Pombo isn't enough. "We have to concentrate on what I offer, too -- in addition to what Pombo's done," he says. (WSJ 6/1/06)
And Filson continued to run away from progressives where McNerney did not. McNerney proudly states progressive friendly positions on health care, reproductive freedom, environmental issues (he’s got a background in wind energy) and supports Rep. Murtha’s position on Iraq. Filson did not have much different stances on the issues, with the exception of some lukewarm support for a more Clinton-esque Iraq strategy. However, he attempted to go fuzzy moderate, and decided the best way to do that was to bash the left and the grass and netroots.
"We need members of congress... who do not get endorsements from places in Marin County and Sonoma, from extreme and progressive sections of the party."(Audio file)
Now, that just won’t do, especially when you’re in a tight primary campaign. That’s essentially when the wheels fell off of Filson’s campaign, and Jerry started gaining strength. And no amount of Ellen Tauscher’s meddling could make Filson the shoo-in that he thought he was supposed to be. Like Tester, the party faithful came out to support a proud, principled man who wasn’t afraid of his own beliefs. That will resonate in the California 11th against Pombo like it will in the Montana Senate Race against Burns.