Pombo competitiveness rating drops

The National Journal dropped the competitiveness rating nine places in its handicapping of the Congressional District 11 race between Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton. The ranking dropped from the 34th most competitive to 43. (The top ranked race is Congressional District 1 in Iowa.)

The shift reflects the general consensus among national political pundits watching congressional races that Pombo will have little trouble outpacing McNerney, who handily beat the more moderate Steve Filson in the primary.

Don’t expect McNerney to adopt that philosophy as his own. He says he will campaign hard to show Washington Democrats that he is a worthy candidate. By that, McNerney means he wants them to invest in his race.

Roll Call, the Washington, D.C.-based newspaper that covers The Hill, reported this week that McNerney is scheduling meetings with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.

But Democratic strategists predict the national support won’t materialize. The party needs to take 15 seats in November to take control of the House of Representatives, and they say they will put their money only in the most competitive districts.

It appears McNerney will still have his environmental friends. The Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund all say they intend to keep the heat on Pombo during the general election. These organizations spent in excess of $300,000 in the primary, mostly on anti-Pombo radio ads and billboards.

In the meantime, Pombo will have no shortage of cash. As of May 17, he had $800,000 in the bank. Combined with his status as a seven-term incumbent and his 7-percentage-point party registration advantage, he will be a formidable challenger.

Speaking of campaign money, here’s a breakdown of what the candidates raised and spent as of May 17. (We’ll find out the candidates’ total expenditures and contributions related to the primary in the next report, which covers May 18-June 30. It’s due July 15, 2006.)

RICHARD POMBO: Raised $1.7 million; spent $1 million
PETE MCCLOSKEY: Raised $387,492; spent $252,803

JERRY MCNERNEY: Raised $231,158; spent $175,624
STEVE FILSON: Raised $384,146; spent $319,138

For a look at the Federal Election Commission filings yourself, click here.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen