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McNerney topples Pombo

U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, once thought invincible in a safe GOP seat, has been turned out by voters in the Democratic storm that roared across the country Tuesday.

With all the precincts tallied, Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton held a solid lead of 6 percentage points and more than 10,000 votes.

At 12:12 a.m. Wednesday, McNerney stood in front of 10 American flags and hundreds of cheering supporters at the San Ramon Golf Club to declare victory.

“We won this thing — it’s ours,” he said, constantly interrupted by cheers. “I’m going to fight to create new jobs. We’re going to become the country we know we can be. I’m looking to you to help inspire me. It’s about the people — we won over the monied interests. It’s time to party.”

And just like that, the Phd mathematician who lost to Pombo two years ago by 60,000 votes, walked into the loud crowd like a rock star.

The race will go down in California history as a massive upset in a district where the incumbent held a 6-percentage point party registration advantage going into Tuesday’s election. No other district in the state has flipped parties with this large a registration gap.

For the full story, click here.

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McNerney declares victory

In a stunning turn of events, congressional District 11 Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney declared victory just after midnight over Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

With three-quarters of the precincts counted, McNerney led by 4 percentage points. He was winning in three of the four counties. Only San Joaquin voters were supporting Pombo and not by as much as one would expect in the congressman’s home county.

Pombo’s campaign aides refused to concede, however, and said they would wait until all the votes have been counted.

“We won this thing — it’s ours,” McNerney said. “I’m going to fight to create new jobs. We’re going to become the country we know we can be. I’m looking to you to help inspire me. It’s
about the people — we won over the monied interests. It’s time to party.”

Pombo, meanwhile, has left his campaign party. His staff says he will hold a press conference on Wednesday.

Here’s what reporter Ryan Huff had to say about McNerney’s campaign party:

Just as the rain started to fall in San Ramon after midnight, the reign of Rep. Richard Pombo came crashing down too.

At 12:12 a.m. Wednesday, McNerney stood in front of 10 American flags and hundreds of cheering supporters to declare victory in a major Congressional upset.

“We won this thing — it’s ours,” he said, constantly interrupted by cheers. “I’m going to fight to create new jobs. We’re going to become the country we know we can be. I’m looking to you to help inspire me. It’s about the people — we won over the monied interests. It’s time to party.”

And just like that, he walked into the crowd like a rock star. People even started dancing to the tunes of the Doobie Brothers’ “Taking It To The Street” and U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Also blasting from the stereo: the Bill Clinton favorite, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”

Speaking of the former president, he called McNerney around midnight to congratulate him.

“He told me if I speak up about renewable energy that I can really make a difference,” McNerney said.

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Scenes from the CD11 parties: Part 5

This from reporter Ryan Huff at McNerney’s party in San Ramon:

At 11:22 p.m., McNerney took the stage in front of a thrilled crowd and sounded very upbeat about his chances to upset seven-term Rep. Richard Pombo. McNerney — wearing a black pinstriped suit, white shirt and turquoise tie — rose to the stage to the chants of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”

He fell short of declaring victory, asking supporters to “give him another hour and we’ll announce these things when they are clear.”

Still, at the time of his speech, with about half of the precincts reporting, he led Pombo by 3 percentage points.

“We’re on the cusp of changing the direction of this country,” McNerney said. “We have some very big issues to deal with — health care, the price of gasoline, our dependence on foreign oil. I will work with Republicans and Democrats to face these challenges.”

McNerney also said he would change the culture of corruption in the nation’s capital. “We need honesty in Washington, integrity in Washington, accountability in Washington. And we are going to hold this (Bush) administration accountable for the things that it does.”

And with that, the crowd loudly cheered as Jerry held hands on stage with his wife and three children.

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Scenes from the CD11 parties: Part 4

“It’s grim around here,” said Times reporter Thomas Peele stationed at Rep. Richard Pombo’s party in a remote little town called Waterloo.

It may turn out to be a fitting locale.

Pombo has already lost his chairmanship of the House Resources Committee after Democrats won enough seats today to seize the reins of control over the House of Representatives.

It’s still too early to say whether he will hold onto his seat against Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.

But the atmosphere suggests that Pombo’s supporters are seriously preoccupied and have little interest in the media.

While accommodations were made for nine or more television crews, campaign staff tossed Peele and several other reporters out of the restaurant, where they had set up their laptop computers at a table. Instead, they were told hang in a tent outside with no lights and no electricity.

“Again, it is grim here,” Peele said. “The only cheer I’ve heard is when Fox News announced that Tom McClintock (Republican lt. governor candidate) was ahead.”

What did you think? That Pombo people would tune into CNN?

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Scenes from the CD11 campaign parties: Part 3

This just in from reporter Thomas Peele at Pombo’s victory party in Waterloo:

Pombo spoke to journalists and supporters aat 9 p.m. after it was clear that Democrats won control of the House, but with his contest far from decided, he said he remained upbeat.

“I feel great about it,” he said of his chances. “This is the night I’ve been waiting for 18 months since they started coming after me.”

Wearing a blue jeans and white golf shirt, Pombo drew loud cheers when he said “wouldn’t change one thing” about the campaign or his work in Washington.

Asked his reaction to being, if he wins, a member of the House minority, he replied “You think I’m happy about it.”

“It’s a rough year. We lost some seats we shouldn’t have,” he said. “I tell my supporters that elections have consequences.”

He said he hoped likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D- San Francisco, “does a better job as speaker than she’s done as minority leader. I wish her luck.”

Pomo said he didn’t believe that voter distress over the Iraq War wasn’t the top issue in the 11th District.

“There are other major issues,” he said. “People have kids. Transportation is a huge issue.”