Jerry McNerney, Dean Andal field ethics barbs

California’s 11th Congressional District race between freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and Republican challenger Dean Andal of Stockton was never a cordial affair, but it took a rapid series of ugly turns today.

First a blogger at the progressive Democratic Calitics noted that despite Andal’s vow that he wouldn’t have his campaign staffers track McNerney with video cameras at public events, his campaign manager, John Franklin, might’ve done exactly that at the candidates’ debate Saturday in Tracy.

Andal campaign spokesman Richard Temple replied there’s a big difference between tracking a candidate at every public gathering, as McNerney’s campaign has – “We think it’s stupid, Dean’s kind of bemused by it” – and finding a campaign manager with a camera in his hands at the first and only debate between the candidates. “Obviously we had people there, Franklin was there, but we’re not following him (McNerney) around.”

Then the California Democratic Party later today issued a statement calling on Andal to cancel his fundraiser tonight with Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs. The Dems noted Andal at the candidates’ debate last week had “launched a series of vicious personal attacks” against McNerney “by repeatedly saying that McNerney’s votes in Congress on funding for the Iraq war were ‘immoral,’ ” yet Bono Mack also voted four times against bills to fund military operations in Iraq. “Will Dean Andal confront Congresswoman Bono Mack about her ‘immoral’ votes? Or will Andal just look the other way, take the money and run?”

Temple said “the fact of tying a timetable for withdrawal to whether or not they (troops) get their money is immoral” but Bono Mack could’ve had other, valid reasons for voting against the bills that didn’t involve “using soldiers as pawns in your political game.” Temple said Andal “likes Congresswoman Bono Mack quite a bit and they respect each other,” and isn’t likely to cancel a fundraiser with her on the Democratic Party’s say-so.

The National Republican Congressional Committee fired back on Andal’s behalf today, issuing a news release questioning the McNerney campaign’s ties to Fletcher-Rowley-Chao-Riddle Inc., a Democrat political consulting firm caught up in the scandal around Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla. It seems Mahoney paid off a woman with whom he had an affair, and promised that woman a job with FRCR as part of a legal settlement; FRCR says it had to knowledge of any such deal, and has now severed all ties with Mahoney.

But the NRCC disputes FRCR’s claim it didn’t know about the cover-up. “With his consultant and colleague embroiled in a front-page ethics scandal, Jerry McNerney’s failure to distance himself from these shocking allegations speaks volumes about his character,” NRCC spokesman Brendan Buck said in the release. “Unless McNerney condones these reprehensible actions by his strategist and his fellow congressman, he should immediately end his relationship with FRCR and denounce these immoral and potentially illegal practices.”

Responded McNerney campaign spokesman Andy Stone: “There’s not an ounce of truth to it. Honestly, they don’t work for this campaign.”

Campaign finance reports show McNerney’s campaign paid FRCR $5,000 on April 17, 2007 and $20,000 on July 29, 2008 for media consulting. “But if you look closely at the report you’ll note that it’s all outstanding debt from the ’06 campaign,” Stone said.

UPDATE @ 3:50 P.M.: I couldn’t spot it before, but now I do see where McNerney had listed outstanding debt to FRCR as a “win bonus” from the 2006 election cycle.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.