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Archive for October, 2006

Cook Political Report hikes Pombo-McNerney competitiveness ranking

The Cook Political Report has upped its competitiveness ranking for the Congressional District 11 race between GOP Rep. Richard Pombo and Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.”

Here’s what Cook analysts wrote about their decision to move the ranking:

“That Pombo is vulnerable is not disputed. The most recent poll taken for the Defenders of Wildlife by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner showed Pombo trailing Democratic engineer Jerry McNerney 46 percent to 48 percent. A poll taken in May by Greenberg showed similar results. In that poll, Pombo was at 42 percent to McNerney’s 46 percent.

“The question now is what happens once this race gets engaged on the airwaves. Up until now, all communication has been on radio or in the mail. That’s why the low number of undecided voters in the latest Defenders of Wildlife poll seems hard to understand. While Pombo may carry some significant negatives, it’s hard to believe that voters in this Republican-leaning district are this eager to support a Democrat that they know very little about.

“In this expensive media market, Republicans and Pombo have the resource advantage to change the focus of the race. The DCCC had essentially written off this race when their favored candidate lost the primary to the more liberal Jerry McNerney. This means that the only help McNerney is likely to get is from the national environmental groups. Still, the NRCC has been dropping anti-McNerney mail in the district since earlier in September and it’s not clear that that has taken a toll on McNerney’s standing.”

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

Modesto Bee endorses McNerney over Pombo

After years of support for the incumbent, the Modesto Bee in the Central Valley has endorsed Democratic congressional challenger Jerry McNerney over GOP Rep. Richard Pombo. Click here to read the editorial.

Is this a sign of shifting political winds in Congressional District 11?

Posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Readers respond to Pombo-McNerney column

My Sunday column about the latest polling information in the Nov. 7 election race between incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Pombo and Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney drew some passionate responses.

The first e-mail was short although not so swetet:

“Perhaps you could further help Pombo by going out and killing a tree in his honor.”

Then, this reader said:

Boy, for a California political columnist you sure don’t know a lot about CA-11.

First of all, Jerry McNerney has been named an “Emerging Races” candidate by the DCCC, which means they are giving him money.

Secondly, the Democratic voters are opening their wallets for McNerney and have been for a long time. The Democratic voters helped McNerney recently raise $100,000 in five days and have helped him raise over a million dollars this election cycle. And note that this money isn’t coming from land-pillaging corporations, or corporate PACs, or Bush and Cheney. The money is coming from average citizens.

As for Pombo being untainted by corruption, you really are drinking the GOP kool-aid. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics once again named Pombo as one of their “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress.” How much pandering does a politician have to do for his family, Indian Tribes and extraction industries before you call them tainted?

With standards as low as yours, no wonder Republicans get away with their culture of corruption.”

(This writer is incorrect with respect to her statement the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I specifically asked this question and the DCCC spokeswoman told me that “emerging candidates” do not receive any committee money, although the extra publicity may lead to the candidate receiving contributions on his own.)

And finally, I recieved a very thoughtful response from Eric Antebi, national press secretary for the Sierra Club:

“Some thoughts after reading your column yesterday:

I totally agree that the way you word the question can have a huge impact on the outcome of a poll. But keep in mind that we’re doing these polls to get honest tracking information so that we know whether the race is worth our time and energy. The primary goal of the poll is to tell us what is actually going on out there in the electorate. It doesn’t do any good to manipulate the outcome.

The part of a survey which is more variable is whether or not to release the results to the press and the public. That’s an afterthought and not the purpose of the poll. If the results had shown that Pombo was sitting pretty, we never would have released the info, and we might have chosen to back off our involvement and spend our resources somewhere else. The poll genuinely gave us strong reason for encouragement, so it became something worth sharing. On the other hand, you’ll notice that Pombo’s campaign, which must be getting the same feedback in its surveys, hasn’t made its results public. That should tell you something too.

Wording of the questions does matter, especially in trying to figure out exactly where Pombo is vulnerable or McNerney is strong. That’s more about messaging. The order of the questions can also influence the results.

But the language we use to gauge how candidates are doing overall is very straight forward and comes at the very beginning of the survey. It reads: “Now, I’d like to rate your feelings toward some people and organizations, with one hundred meaning a VERY WARM, FAVORABLE feeling; zero meaning a VERY COLD, UNFAVORABLE feeling; and fifty meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to one hundred, the higher the number the more favorable your feelings are toward that person or organization. If you have no opinion or never heard of that person or organization, please say so.” In that question, McNerney leads Pombo 45 to 42 points. McNerney benefits in part because he is less well known. But it is also true that Pombo’s negatives solidly outweigh his positives (45 to 36) and drag him down, thereby giving a relatively unknown challenger a chance.

In the following section, the poll asked: “If the election for U.S. Congress were held today and the candidates were: Renewable Energy Businessman Jerry McNerney, the Democrat, and Rancher and Congressman Richard Pombo, the Republican — for whom would you vote, Democrat Jerry McNerney or Republican Richard Pombo?” McNerney leads Pombo 45 to 43 with 6 points for “undecided.”

I can’t tell you what is going to happen on election day. But I can tell you that there is no question that McNerney is giving Pombo a real run for his money right now. This poll was also taken before the Foley scandal, which may or may not affect the 11th in any meaningful way.

Just thought I would share. Let me know if you have any questions.

Posted on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

McNerney calls on Pombo to support Hastert resignation

Democratic congressional challenger Jerry McNerney called on incumbent GOP Rep. Richard Pombo to support the resignation of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is under fire for failing to stop a fellow Republican’s inappropriate sexual behavior with House pages.

In addition, McNerney asked Pombo to return approximately $30,000 Hastert raised for him at a May 2006 fundraiser in Acampo plus additional money Hastert collected at an August 2005 event in Monterey.

Finally, McNerney demanded Pombo request the National Republican Campaign Committee to donate the disgraced Florida GOP Rep. Mark Foley’s $100,000 contribution to charity and refuse to appropriate as its own the more than $2 million that remains in Foley’s campaign account.

Posted on Monday, October 9th, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Watchdog group launches campaign finance web site

A national watchdog organization unveiled Monday a web site — — that details the source of campaign money for members of Congress in California and nine other states.

At a time when members of Congress are going to prison and pleading guilty to federal crimes related to campaign finances, Public Citizen director Joan Claybrook called the information vital for voters who want to know whether elected leaders represent the interests of the people or big business.

“Our report details that Congress is awash in campaign money,” Claybrook said during a telephone press conference Monday morning.

The web site allows viewers to rank, by member in each state, contributions from lobbyists, acceptance of privately funded travel, money from individuals who live out of the member’s state and contributions of $200 or less as a percentage of all cash received.

Other sites provide some of this information but this is the first group to compile all of these categories and rank members in a single online location.

Public Citizen staff says that members of Congress rely too heavily on special interest money, which has resulted in legislation that favors big businesses such as oil and pharmaceutical companies over the public interest.

Among its California findings, Public Citizen reports:

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield, raised $2.6 million in the 2004 election despite lacking an opponent. Thomas received the highest amount of political action committee contributions per cycle in the state.

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, tops the state’s congressional delegation in contributions from lobbyists since 2000, average $172,248 per election cycle.

The California analysis also singles out representatives John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay, and
Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, for paying members of their families to work on their campaigns.

Public Citizen, based in Washington, D.C., is one of the leading proponents of publicly financed campaigns and considered a liberal organization by most conservative groups.

“Reform is urgently needed,” Claybrook said, “so that candidates can spend less time raising money and more time serving the public.”

Posted on Monday, October 9th, 2006
Under: Election reform | No Comments »

Got stamps?

Contra Costa and Alameda counties’ ballot is so heavy that for the first time, folks that vote by mail will need to place two first-class stamps on the envelope before dropping it into the mailbox.

Election officials will begin mailing ballots to folks that vote by mail starting Tuesday.

Lack of postage is just one of several growing problems for election clerks as greater numbers of voters opt to vote by mail. Six out of every 10 Contra Costa voters voted by mail in the last election, the highest rate in the county’s history.

“With the explosion in absentee voting, we are seeing an increase in the number of ballots that we cannot count,” Contra Costa election chief Steve Weir said. “We want every vote to count and if you think about this happening all over the state, it adds up to thousands of uncounted ballots. We need to address the problem.”

Contra Costa County’s rejection rate jumped from 1.3 percent in November 2004 to 1.6 percent in November 2005 to 2 percent in June. In the primary, that translated into 2,472 rejected ballots.

If the trend continues in the much higher turn-out Nov. 7 election, it could reach 4,000 uncounted ballots.

Alameda County doesn’t track its rejection rates but election department spokesman Guy Ashley said they have inserted into the envelope a checklist for voters and a big red reminder note on the outside.

The chief reason election clerks reject ballots is a simple one: They arrive after Election Day.

Others arrive with no signature, the wrong signature or an undecipherable signature.

If you want your vote to count, Weir offers these suggestions:

The mail-in ballot is on two pieces of paper this year, so make sure you include both ballots when you cast your votes.

Sign the envelope. And when you sign the outside of the envelope, take your time and use your standard signature. The clerks must match the signature to your voter registration card but if they can’t read it, your ballot will end up in the rejection pile.

Mail your ballot no later than Friday, Nov. 3. Ballots that arrive after 8 p.m. on Election Day are not counted.

If you fail to mail the ballot on time, just take it to your polling place on Election Day or down to your county’s election office.

Posted on Friday, October 6th, 2006
Under: election 2006 | No Comments »

A trip to see the Leader of the Free World

I told my family I was going to cover President George W. Bush today when he visited the Stockton fund-raiser for Rep. Richard Pombo and they were appropriately impressed. It’s not every day that someone they actually know sits a few hundred feet from the Leader of the Free World.

But it’s not nearly as glamorous as it sounds when TV personalities like Diane Sawyer mention on the air that they have “covered presidents.”

It’s actually a real pain in the neck.

For security purposes, I had to send the White House in advance my social security number, date of birth and the whereabouts of my eldest child. (Heck, they can have the child; maybe Barbara Bush can convince him to go to college.) Wait aminute, doesn’t the government already know this stuff about me? If the government can’t find my social security number, I doubt they’ll have much luck spotting a terrorist.

That’s only the beginning of the aggravation.

The parking sucks because the Secret Service has shut down all the adjacent streets.

You must arrive two or three hours before the president even appears.

They stick you with an ID tag and tell you not lose it or risk being thrown out.

Security involves a frowning man in an expensive suit rifling through your messy purse and that oh-so-unladylike spread-eagle stance while another equally dour guard passes the metal detector wand up and down your body. I just hope it’s not an X-ray machine. I couldn’t remember if I wore my nicest panties.

They corral you like cattle behind those poles linked together with canvas strips — like they use in the bank or amusement parks — while secret agent types wearing lumpy, dark suits who have little microphones wedged into their ears hover along the perimeter to make sure you don’t escape. They even insist on escorting you to the bathroom lest you deviate from your assigned position.

I suspect they listen to the reporters’ conversations, too, which gave me pause after I told the Contra Costa Times photographer via cell phone that it looked as “though there’s a clear shot of the president from the press riser.” I was talking, for anyone who might be confused or monitoring this blog from the White House, about photos.

By that time, I was regretting my earlier decision to skip former Congressman Pete McCloskey’s invite to a pre-Bush breakfast where he was going to feed reporters mimosas and Krispy Kreme donuts. I didn’t want to lapse into a glycemic shock and no matter what you see in the movies, most reporters don’t drink on the job, or at the very least, before lunch.

From our little roped off prison, we could only watch folks chowing down on their eggs and bacon.

But after the speech was done and the story was filed, it all felt worth it to come home and tell the family all about how I, too, “cover presidents.”

It’s too bad presidents don’t visit California more often. Next time, I think I’ll try the donuts and the mimosas. (Just don’t tell my editor.)

Posted on Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »