Pombo re-enters land-use arena

Seven-term U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, a Tracy Republican who lost his seat to Democrat and wind energy consultant Jerry McNerney in November, has been named chairman of a national property rights organization.

Partnership for America, backed by energy, mining, hunting and logging interests, says Pombo will serve as its “national ambassador on the key issues such as maintaining public access to public lands, restoring common sense back into government regulation, promoting economic freedom and private property rights and promoting more American energy for America.”

“I spent 14 years in Congress fighting for what I believe in and doing what I knew was right,” Pombo said Wednesday at a Washington, D.C. press conference to announce his new post. “But the fight is far from over. I plan to continue to fight against those special interests that want to lock up and restrict the people’s access to their land; that abuse environmental laws in order to take away people’s property rights and individual liberty; that stand in the way of economic freedom and more American jobs; and that work to keep America addicted to foreign energy by blocking America’s ability to produce more American energy.”

The post should surprise no one.

As the chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo relentlessly (although unsuccessfully) pursued changes to the Endangered Species Act and sought to open up domestic sources for oil and natural gas.

Pombo’s dogged determination also drew unprecedented opposition from powerful environmental groups, whose members coalesced in the 2006 election and helped engineer his defeat.

In addition to the Partnership job, Pombo will keep his post with Pac/West Communications, a lobbying and campaign firm with offices in Oregon and Washington, D.C. Pombo’s former chief of staff, Steve Ding, is opening Pac/West’s new Sacramento office.

This week’s announcement, of course, ends any residual speculation that Pombo might seek re-election to Congress.

“I will not be a candidate in 2008,” Pombo said during the event, as reported today in Roll Call, a Washington, D.C., newspaper. “I spent 14 years as a representative from California. I worked on a lot of different things and was happy with the things I was able to do. It was a lot of fun doing it, and quite an education being a member of Congress. But at this point in my life I’m moving on.”

Few thought Pombo intended to run again, however, as evidenced by the public statements of several Republicans who may challenge McNerney.

Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, and former Assemblyman Dean Andal of Stockton both visited GOP leaders in Washington earlier this year, moves neither man would have taken if Pombo were seriously contemplating a rematch with McNerney.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen