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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.

The release reads, “WHERE’S POMBO? IN SAN DIEGO, NOT STOCKTON. WITH DONORS, NOT SENIORS.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Regards,
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.