McNerney scrambles for “All Star” status

It’s the political version of “American Idol.”

Congressional District 11 Democratic candidate Jerry McNerney is sweating it out over the weekend as Democracy for America counts the final votes in its on-line, “Grassroots All-Star” contest.

The winner receives a coveted Democracy for America endorsement, which could bring his campaign much-needed dollars in his fight against the well-funded, seven-term incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

McNerney toggled all day Friday between first and second place up until 2 p.m. when voting closed. His chief competitor for the DFA prize is Democrat Nancy Skinner of Michigan, who “has a big megaphone advantage because she is a talk-show host in Detroit,” said McNerney campaign manager A.J. Carrillo.

McNerney, a wind energy engineer from Pleasanton, has gotten help in his vote quest from an unusual source: A Daily Kos blogger known as ripzaw who wants a job on the candidate’s campaign team. He begged folks on his blog to vote for McNerney, apparently under the premise that if the guy wins, he’ll have salary money.

“I might give him a job. Who knows?” says Carrillo. “You have to give the guy points for creativity.”

McNerney is also competing in an on-line contest for a prize offered by potential presidential candidate and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. Voting closes June 29. The top 10 finishers will receive a $5,000 contribution from Warner’s political action committee, Go Forward Together. And one candidate will win a fund-raiser by Warner himself.

On-line voting contests are a sign of the times as campaigns go high-tech in the wake of success stories such as the liberal Moveon.org, which collects millions of dollars in contributions for its causes through the Internet.

It’s also a way for national political organizations or candidates to collect new e-mail addresses for their databases, which serve as a path to solicit more contributions and build momentum for their causes. Several national environmental groups conducted similar on-line voting schemes in the primary when they asked readers to pick their favorite anti-Pombo ads.

If this method of raising money stars mooing like a cash cow, watch it take off like grass in spring. No one’s email box is safe.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen