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Archive for October, 2006

DCCC enters Congressional District 11 race

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has entered the contentious race between Democratic nominee Jerry McNerney and GOP Rep. Richard Pombo, signalling that the party’s internal polling may be favorable for the challenger.

An ad funded by the committee starts running today in the Sacramento TV market, according to spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield. The cost won’t be known until the committee posts its expenses on the Federal Election Commission web site, per 24-hour reporting rules. Click here to view the ad.

The spot accuses Pombo of voting to raise his own salary eight times — worth $31,000 — but voted in 2003 against an amendment that would have given troops in Iraq and Afghanistan a $1,500 bonus.

A voiceover then says, “There’s a better choice. Jerry McNerney. An independent businessman committeed to our future.”

Up until now, the DCCC had spent little cash in this district while its Republican counter-part has spent at least $650,000.

From the Pombo campaign office, staffers called both issues bogus.

The House has considered only four direct up or down votes on pay, and they were all to prevent the automatic cost-of-living-increase from going into effect, said staffer Brian Kennedy. Pombo voted to block the increase each time. The votes were on 3/4/93, 6/15/94, 9/8/95 and 7/16/96.

The votes the Democrats cite in the TV ad were procedural shenanigans, Kennedy said, staged to give the impression that the minority party has tried to stop raises while actually never affecting their pay.

A representative’s pay has risen $31,600 to $165,200 since Pombo took office 13 years ago, or an average of $2,430 a year.

On the troop bonus legislation, Kennedy said, the amendment proposed to fund the extra pay with $1 billion from the Iraq reconstruction fund. The U.S. is buying oil from Iraq and those funds are earmarked for rebuilding the war-torn country.

At the time, Kennedy said, commanders in Iraq were telling Congress that reconstruction funding was the top prioriety.

“Every member of Congress would love to give the troops $1 million bonus, let alone $1,500,” Kennedy said. “But the question is whether this was the right source of the funds.”

The bill failed on a 213-213 vote. Pombo was one of 14 Republicans and two Democrats who voted no, including war hero, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania.

Several weeks later, Kennedy said, the House passed legislation that, among other benefits, awarded troops a 4.15 percent average pay raise and extended special pay and bonuses for active duty personnel through December 31, 2004.

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Contra Costa Republican to challenge Jerry Brown’s candidacy

Contra Costa County GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, among other Republicans, says he will file a lawsuit in Sacramento on Thursday asking a judge to declare Democratic attorney general candidate Jerry Brown ineligible to seek the office.

Del Beccarro, an attorney with offices in Walnut Creek, declined to say on what grounds except to say that he believes Brown does not meet the “minimum qualifications for the office as set forth Californa law.”

The case will ask a judge to direct the state’s registrars of voters not to count ballots cast for Brown, who is running against Republican Chuck Poochigian.

Del Beccarro and other plaintiffs, including Yolo County GOP Chairman Mark Pruner, will hold a press conference Thursday at 10:30 a.m. on the steps of the Sacramento Superior Court building.

Posted on Wednesday, October 18th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Pombo vs. McNerney: Hey, you started it!

Shots fired back and forth today between the congressional District 11 campaigns of Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and his Democratic challenger, wind energy consultant Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.

McNerney’s folks started off with a press release about how Pombo is headed to San Diego Wednesday for a fund-raising spree down south with fellow GOP candidate Rep. Brian Bilbray.


Democratic staffers have conveniently combined a couple of events for literary effect.

The senior event, sponsored by the American Assocation of Retired Persons, is tonight in Stockton and Pombo’s staff says he doesn’t leave for San Diego until Wednesday.

McNerney is going to the senior event but Pombo is not. The Dems say Pombo is ducking the event because “he is afraid to answer questions about his anti-senior agenda that includes privatizing Social Security and opposing government negotiation for lower prescription drug prices,” campaign spokesman Yoni Cohen said.

Not true, says Pombo campaign manager Carl Fogliani. He says Pombo is doing a tele-town hall tonight. “Whether McNerney’s people believe it or not, this campaign doesn’t revolve around their candidate,” he says.

Cohen fired back with, “If Pombo made time in his schedule to attend the AARP candidates’ forum and the Commonwealth Club and League of Women Voters debates, we would not criticize him for leaving the 11th Congressional District to raise campaign cash.”

The McNerney folks, meanwhile, failed to mention that their candidate is headed for New York on Thursday, where he’ll be feted at three fund-raisers.

Let’s just imagine, for a moment, the counter-press release that must certainly be under consideration at this very moment: “WHERE’S MCNERNEY? IN NEW YORK. WITH DONORS. NOT SENIORS.”

On Thursday night, according to the Democracy for New York web site, McNerney will appear at a swanky Upper West Side event with New York state Sen. Eric Schneiderman and Jim Dean, brother of Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.

Later that evening, McNerney heads to the Pioneer Bar and what promises to be a very entertaining spoof, featuring “Billionaires for Bush” expressing their “outrage” at McNerney’s grassroots campaign.

And finally, McNerney will appear in Midtown for breakfast at Skadden Arps in Times Square.

What’s all this travel about? Money, money, money, money.

Posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Pombo heads to San Diego

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, heads to San Diego on Wednesday, where he’ll appear with Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-San Diego.

The San Diego Republican web site calls it a chance to visit with House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pombo at the Hotel Solamar starting at 6 p.m.

But who is raising money for who?

Democrat Jerry McNerney, a wind energy consultant from Pleasanton, is giving Pombo plenty of trouble in District 11.

Bilbray has tough campaign fight against Democrat Francine Busby, who is expected to make as much hay as possible from the Pombo visit. An independent poll of likely voters by SurveyUSA from Oct. 13-15 shows Bilbray with a 3 percentage point lead over Busby, down from 14 points in the last survey.

Pombo must have won the coin toss: The on-line invite offers instructions on how to fill out those checks for the Tracy Republican.

Post-script: Pombo campaign folks say Bilbray will get a chance to collect some cash, too, but at a separate event.

Posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Pombo outraises McNerney, but Democrat raises record amount

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is handily outraising Democratic challenger and wind energy consultant Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton in the race for congressional District 11, according to campaign finance records filed Sunday.

Pombo collected nearly $1 million in the past quarter and has raised a total of $3.2 million in his re-election bid. The incumbent raised an additional $400,000 after the Sept. 30 reporting deadline during the visit from President George W. Bush.

McNerney, however, broke in this district a Democratic fund-raising record in the past quarter, collecting $713,800. He has raised a total of $1.2 million. McNerney also reports that he has collected an additional $250,000 since the reporting deadline.

The incumbent had significantly more cash in the bank as of Sept. 30, $1.1 million compared to $323,798 for McNerney.

As the candidates head into the final and most expensive weeks of the campaign, cash in the bank is a significant advantage.

McNerney is hoping a recent internal poll that showed him in a statistical dead heat with Pombo, coupled with a similar results from an environmental group’s survey, will attract much-needed money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The national party has contributed to or spent $70,000 on McNerney’s behalf but its leaders had not yet included the candidate in its massive independent expenditure program.

Democratic strategists told the New York Times Sunday that they may take aim at Pombo if new polling shows the incumbent is sufficiently vulnerable.

McNerney has relied heavily on smaller contributions: 80 percent of his money has come from individual contributions compared to 54 percent for Pombo.

The balance of Pombo’s money has come largely from political action committees.
In addition, Pombo has benefited from the roughly $500,000 that the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent on anti-McNerney advertising in the district.

McNerney has also ridden on the financial wave of a half-dozen national organizations such as the Defenders of Wildlife, League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. These groups have spent tens of thousands of dollars on anti-Pombo efforts, including advertising.

Posted on Monday, October 16th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Congressional candidates report campaign finances

The San Jose Mercury News reports, via The Associated Press, on Sunday’s congressional deadline to file campaign finance disclosure reports.

To view the campaign finance reports on the Federal Election Commission’s web site, click here and enter the candidate’s name in the box that says “Partial name of comittee.” Look for the “October quarterly” link for 2006.

Posted on Sunday, October 15th, 2006
Under: Election reform | No Comments »

Italians are really mad at McNerney

The National Italian American Foundation of Washington, D.C., didn’t take kindly to congressional Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney’s comments at his only debate with incumbent Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

It seems McNerney called Pombo’s approach to handling terrorism a “Tony Soprano morality,” the HBO television character in a show that depicts the life and tims of mobsters.

The letter reads, in part:

“Your references to Rep. Pombo as mafioso and having ‘Tony Soprano’ morality are clearly inappropriate and have troubled many people throughout Northern California …

“No ethnic, racial or religious group should have to tolerate this disparaging treatment whether done in jest or not.”

Oh, give me a break.

No offense to the fans, but isn’t the whole show a bigger insult to Italians than McNerney’s lame analogy? Does the foundation write a letter every week to HBO?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Does anyone remember Murphy Brown? She was a TV character who attracted the wrath of Veep Dan Quayle because she had a baby out of wedlock.

Here’s a newsflash, people: TONY SOPRANO IS NOT A REAL PERSON!

Posted on Friday, October 13th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Readers accuse me of bias in Pombo-McNerney coverage

Reader Larry Ward of Pleasant Hill writes this morning, in response to our coverage of GOP Rep. Richard Pombo’s visit to the Times editorial board.

Editor Chris Lopez’ response follows.

Here’s Mr. Ward’s e-mail to me:

How in the world is anybody to take this paper seriously? Your bias is so blatant that it has become laughable.

You make “George Miller predicts” a news story, highlighting “Pombo could potentially lose” (the sun could potentially fail to rise also). Self-fulfilling-prophecy work should not be the effort of any kind of serious journalism.

And then when you interview Pombo, you pick out the current Ken Lay of the election cycle, the man whose name is substituted for “the devil” by Democrats and insert it in the Pombo article SEVENTEEN times? Take a highlighter & hit Abramoff with it every time it appears in the article.

Then try to tell me that was not intentional. Do you understand now why Air America had to file for bankruptcy? Nobody believes them anymore, and it is just too tedious to listen to.

The same is true of print journalism. You’re all scratching your heads thinking it is just a case of the on-line erosion of advertising dollars, but you just will not allow yourselves to factor in your own bias as a reason circulation in the print media is down.

Your friend,
Larry Ward, Pleasant Hill

Here’s Lopez’s response:

Larry, it’s not intentional. We spent 90 minutes in my office yesterday with Congressman Pombo. We had a very good conversation with him. We get accused of bias to the right as often as we’re accused of bias to the left.

For us, that’s validation that our reporting is straight down the middle. We would be negligent
in our duties if we didn’t press Congressman Pombo on the Abramahoff situation. He had no problems with our line of questioning and answered all of our questions. We value the fact that we have strong relationships with all of the congressional delegation that includes Democrat Miller and Republican Pombo.

We also value readers like yourself who take the time to email us and express thoughts. That’s healthy for us. We like that you keep us on our toes. We have many readers from all stripes who do. That’s what makes Contra Costa such a strong newspaper. Never hesitate to let us know what you’re seeing in the newspaper.

Chris Lopez

Ah, but there’s more.

A reader called an editor at the Valley Times to register a complaint about my “slanted” anti-McNerney reporting as part of recent stories about Pombo, including today’s. Complaints included not writing often enough about McNerney, not acknowledging McNerney has “a chance to win,” not mentioning Modesto Bee’s endorsement stories, and so on.

And in a voice mail message on my phone a few minutes ago, a reader asked me, “Are you on Pombo’s staff now?”

All I need now is a call or an email from someone who says I am pro-McNerrney and I will have rounded out the four obvious possibilities. Perhaps that message will come tomorrow after I write about McNerney’s visit to the Times’ office this afternoon.

Posted on Friday, October 13th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

What a difference a poll makes

Early in the election season, congressional District 11 Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney, running against incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Pombo, could barely get a phone call returned from his own party’s top leaders.

Last night, they feted McNerney at a San Francisco fund-raiser that would be the envy of any Democrat in California.

Read Democratic activist Christine Pelosi’s blog about the evening here.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the event, which was attended by House Democratic Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with congresswomen Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, Anna Eshoo, D-Atherton and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. Eshoo and Pelosi had endorsed and given money to McNerney’s primary opponent, Steve Filson.

“The party thought Pombo’s money would knock McNerney out of the running but the attacks haven’t worked,” said one of McNerney’s campaign aides. “We’re seeing a big seachange in the way McNerney is being treated in this campaign, thanks to the latest polls.”

The aide refers to national polls that show Republicans in trouble in the wake of the page scandal in Washington and concerns over the Iraq War. He’s also talking about two polls commissioned by the Democrat’s campaign and an environmental group that shows McNerney in a statistical dead heat with Pombo.

It’s tough to evaluate the validity of those polls because the campaign won’t release the details and there’s been no independent polling.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is doing its own poll, though, and we’ll have a pretty good idea of the results if the national party suddenly dumps money into this race. So far, the DCCC hasn’t given McNerney a dime in its mega-million-dollar independent expenditure program, just a nice spot on its web site for “emerging candidates.” (The committee has apparently given McNerney some money under the limited amount it is allowed to contribute to or spend on behalf of the candidate directly.)

Who else showed?

Craig’s List owner Craig Newmark appeared, along with former GOP congressman Pete McCloskey; Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers; Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco; Art Pulaski of the California Federation of Labor; San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and Jerome Ringo, president of the Apollo Alliance and the National Wildlife Federation.

Of course, this all becomes fodder for Pombo, whose campaign staffers will use it to further paint McNerney in the conservative Central Valley as a tax-and-spend San Francisco liberal.

Posted on Thursday, October 12th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Rep. George Miller predicts Democratic win in November

The Democrats will win majority control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate in the upcoming mid-term election, predicted 32-year veteran Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

“We can clearly see winning the 15 seats we need in the House and some of the analysts are saying we will take the six we need to win the Senate,” Miller told the Contra Costa Times editorial board this morning. “We’re seeing a fundamental shift and opponents (to incumbent Republicans) that were laughable six months ago are now in play.”

Miller includes on his list of potential Democratic gains the congressional District 11 contest between GOP Rep. Richard Pombo of Tracy and Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton, and District 4, where incumbent GOP John Doolittle faces Democrat Charlie Brown.

“Are Pombo and Doolittle in trouble? Absolutely,” said Miller, who is in line to assume the chairmanship of the House Workforce and Education Committee if Democrats prevail. “All the indications are there.”

Read the Contra Costa Times for the full story.

Posted on Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »