CD11: Is Harmer MIA?



I just fielded my fifth call today asking the whereabouts of the concession statement from 11th District GOP candidate David Harmer in the wake of his loss to Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney.

Here’s the short answer: There isn’t one. I haven’t heard from Harmer despite numerous calls and emails to his campaign spokespeople.

And no, contrary to the accusation from one caller, our failure to mention the fact that Harmer had not returned calls in our published story today does not reflect any bias other than the fact that we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

For all we knew, he was dealing with a major family emergency.

UPDATE 3:20 P.M. I just got off the phone with Harmer campaign spokesman Tim Clark , who tells me that we will hear from the candidate “when the time is right for him” although the timing is uncertain. In the meantime, Clark said, Harmer and the campaign staff are reviewing concerns about the expedited signature comparison of vote-by-mail ballots in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It’s unclear what action Harmer may take.

But here we are, 24 hours after the final county in the 11th District certified its results and still no statement from Harmer. No return phone call. No email from Harmer. His campaign people indicated someone would be saying something but that something has yet to materialize.

There has been no concession call to McNerney, either, according to the congressman’s press secretary.

A concession is unnecessary to the process, of course. It’s a symbolic display of sportsmanship and good manners.

I’ve covered David Harmer through two congressional campaigns now, and he has always made himself readily available to the press. He has always been gracious and generous with his time.

Harmer lost by roughly 1 percentage point, hardly a vote of confidence for McNerney but a win for the Democrat nonetheless.  It is also most likely a sufficient enough margin to discourage a costly recount.

It’s possible that Harmer is seriously contemplating whether to pay for a recount. Perhaps he is lobbying for the House of Representatives to intervene based on some type of allegations of voter fraud. Or both.

He may have campaign debt and it is undeniably easier to ask for money to keep the fight alive. The post-general Federal Election Commission campaign finance report deadline is Thursday, so we’ll have a better idea of the candidates’ financial picture when those reports come out.

The only person who really knows is Harmer.

I’ll keep calling.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • John W

    Obviously keeping his options open and/or keeping the fundraising alive. I’ve been curious. I know the House can determine who to seat. Read literally, the Constitution doesn’t require them to have a reason. But is there any modern-day, or even an older historical precedent for such a thing?

  • Jason B.

    Re: #1 John W.
    The only local example of a contested congressional seat within the House of Representatives is the 1892 race for a congressional district that included Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano and Lake counties (and perhaps others).

    Republican Samuel Hilborn (R-Oakland) was declared the winner and seated in 1893. However, Democrat Warren B. English of Oakland and his supporters alleged fraud in the Altamont region east of Livermore. After a court battle in 1893 in Oakland, the legal battle moved to Washington, D.C. where members of Congress heard “evidence” about illiterate ranchers, unsecured ballot boxes, etc.

    On April 4, 1894, a plurality (or maybe a majority) of the entire House declared that Hilborn was not elected in 1892 and English was. Hilborn thereby was ousted from his seat mid-term and English took his place. Hilborn end up decisively defeating English in the 1894 election, in which Republicans gained 100+ seats from Democrats (including English).

    The Hilborn-English battle is interesting on many levels — the introduction of the Australian ballot locally, voter confusion over a “long” and “short” seat on the same ballot (and the fact that the “short” seat had different 1880s boundaries than the 1890s boundaries for the “long” seat). I’ll have to write this up in a scholarly fashion someday. (There was another contest in the House in 1876 concerning the district including Santa Clara County and the Central Coast — the Wigginton-Pacheco contest.)

    But the 1892 race turned on maybe 50 or so ballots in Altamont. The 2010 Harmer-McNerney race had a much, much wider margin and not a hint of fraud. A 1984 congressional race in Indiana was contested in the House and caused very deep partisan acrimony. Even if Mr. Harmer were to pursue that path (which is extremely unlikely), the Republican congressional leadership would talk him out of it.

    Even if Mr. Harmer had a very good case, the House leadership wouldn’t want it to be a “sideshow” at the very instant that they are reclaiming the majority (but, then again, aren’t many of the Republicans who will run the House the same people who pressed irresponsibly for the Clinton impeachment in 1998?).

    Look back at January 2007 when the Democrats took over the House and refused to allow the Jennings-Buchanan House race to be contested (a very disturbing example of what happens when electronic voting machines have no paper trail). When a party takes over the House, that party just doesn’t want distractions like contested elections.

  • John W

    Wow! Fascinating history, Jason B. Thanks for the detailed response. I agree with you that, absent extremely unusual circumstances, the incoming GOP House leadership would be insane to screw around with this. The Democrats and the national and local media would have a field day.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Silence is golden. It keeps the subject in the news media.

  • ted ford

    Harmer should have congratulated McNerney weeks ago. He’s now showing what he is made of. He lost a race that perhaps he should have won. Jerry McNerney beat him fair and square. Harmer is acting like a jerk.

  • Patty O’Day

    #3 – “and not a hint of fraud.”

    I am not as confident in this area as you are. Previously on this blog, I have mentioned my concern about absentee ballots being returned in huge numbers on Election Day by people who DID NOT LIVE IN THE SAME HOUSEHOLD as the voter.

    I have had private e-mails with Steve Weir about this matter and he refuses to answer my basic question. This makes me even more suspicious. I am not accusing him of anything, I am saying that I find it impossible to believe that not ONE person was turned away at the polls when he tried tried to turn in the absentee ballot for someone that did not live in the same household.

    Steve Weir told me that the poll inspectors keep notes in their “notebooks” about any people that were denied the opportunity to vote. I asked him how many people were denied for this reason, and he refuses to answer me. This makes me think that in Contra Costa County at least, this rule was NOT enforced by the poll workers and since 25% or so of the absentee ballots were turned in on Election Day, this could account for thousands of votes that should not have been included in the count.

    So, I have no problem with Harmer waiting to concede until he feels absolutely certain that the count was fair. Personally, I don’t think it was fair.

  • John W

    Re #6

    I rather doubt that people were allowed to vote who shouldn’t have. However, if you have reason to believe otherwise, I suggest you bring it to the attention of the GOP attorney working on the matter rather than trying to trade e-mails with Mr. Weir. But let’s suppose somebody was improperly allowed to vote. You have no way of knowing whether that would be a vote for McNerney, Harmer or Christensen. So, I guess my question is, would you have these same conspiracy theories had the outcome been in Harmer’s favor?

  • steve weir

    I posted my direct e-mail address in response to postings by Patty O’Day on this site. She mentioned that she knew of someone who witnessed (or who turned in) four vote by mail ballots being delivered to a Concord Precinct and that the Inspector did not ask or question that person. I asked Patty to provide me with the location of that polling place so I could check the Inspector’s Journal to see if any note was made of this but she has not responded. She countered with her belief that she could not believe that we did not reject one vote by mail ballot turned in at the polls because of improper third party or “Authorized Agent” delivery. We left it at that.

    I did go and check several vote by mail envelopes that were turned in at the polls. Many, many of them have the “Authorized Agent” section filled out. I have no reason to believe that there is any impropriety, save this one third hand comment.

  • Patty O’Day

    When I heard that 25% of the votes were turned in on Election Day, yes, I would have had that same suspicion. My suspicions would not be as strong if:

    1. I did not receive an e-mail a day or two after the election telling me that Dem canvassers in some counties were out on Election Day going door to door helping voters complete absentee ballots and turning them in for them.
    2. I did not personally know of a person in Contra Costa that turned in 4 absentee ballots (legally) without ever, for one second, being challenged by ANY poll worker to show that she was the rightfully authorized person to turn in those ballots.
    3. If, when I asked Steve Weir how many people were turned away for not being properly authorized to return ballots because they did not live in the same household, he refused to answer my question, even after several requests.
    4. If, Steve Weir had not become defensive and somewhat insulting to me because I was persistant in asking that very general question. I never once said anything about a court of law, but he decided it was appropriate to tell me that I would not be a good witness in court. What is he hiding?

    I believe he is hiding the fact that the poll workers were NOT enforcing the rule that only those living in the same household were allowed to turn in absentee ballots. I do not believe for one second that 0 people tried to turn in an absentee ballot when they didn’t live in the same household.

    Even if there were no cheating involved, I am certain that some neighbors with good intentions dropped off an absentee ballot for their ill neighbor. If the poll workers had been doing their job properly, they would not have allowed that person to turn in the ballot. I asked Steve Weir how many of those people were turned away. He refuses to answer me.

    Steve Weir had no problem opining on this blog about many things in the days after the election. I personally thought much of what he was saying was inappropriate for a public official to be saying in a blog when it so closely related to his job and when we were discussing a very close race.

    I am quite certain the GOP attorney knows all about this problem.

  • steve weir

    Yes, Patty, I became frustrated with your accusations and innuendos of wrong doing, yet you presented no evidence, and then you insisted that I prove that nothing happened. You gave me the proverbial Gordian Knot.

    I told you that if you provided me with the precinct where you allege the problem existed, I would look into this as a training issue.

    So you know, Registrar’s of Voters do not have investigatory authority. We are charged with implementing state and federal law. Enforcement is vested with others (DA, Fraud Unit of the SOS.)

    When you asked about our poll worker training, I e-mailed you that document.

    Citizens have the right (and the duty) to observe all aspects of how we conduct elections. I assume that observers were present during election day at the polls. Produce evidence of wrong doing, and we’ll (a) adjust our training to address it, and (b) refer the wrong doing, if it is criminal, to the appropriate authority. Again, I have no investigatory authority under the law.

  • Patty O’Day

    It’s a simple question. Are you seriously saying that you are not required to enforce your own rules?

    I simply asked if any people had been turned away from turning in a ballot because they did not live in the same household and if so, how many?

    You were acting like “Ask Jeeves” on every other question that people were asking. I think I hit a nerve with this one. I don’t think it is an unreasonable question to ask.

  • Common Tater

    Steve Weir

    You are losing some credibility here.

  • steve weir

    We provide training and a manual to our poll workers. One of the sections deal with Vote By Mail ballots being turned in at the polls.

    (If you would like a copy, e-mail me and I’ll forward it to you steve.weir@cr.cccounty.us )

    Here’s what it says in part: “Ask if the person returning the ballot is the voter. If the person is not the voter, the voter may designate their spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister or any member of the voter’s household to return their ballot. Make sure the voter has signed the envelope and if someone else is returning the ballot for them, have that person sign as the Authorized Agent.”

    We would not know if an Inspector or poll worker rejected a vote by mail ballot. We ask each Inspector to keep a journal that we provide. They are not required to log this information, but if they did, we would know by reading that journal (there are 482 in this election).

    If someone knows that we did not follow through, let us know and we’ll address it with that Inspector or if it is widespread, we’ll focus on it at our training.

    Unless you have been a poll worker, gone through the training and the actual experience on election day, you do not know how much information they are responsible to master.

    I can tell you from personal experience, that we check at our office in Martinez if anyone is returning a ballot and we refuse those who are not authorized. Is the system perfect? As close as we can get it with a dedicated army of your neighbors (over 2,000 this election) doing a tremendous job for you on election day.

    If you know of a problem, be specific and we’ll try to address it.

  • John W

    Wow, none of this makes me eager to volunteer as a poll worker. Bust your butt, and you thanklessly get accused of fraud or incompetence. If this election had been decided by a handful of votes (like the Minnesota Senate race in 2008), that would be one thing. But the margin here was more than one percent. Many elections get decided by far less than that without attracting all this effort to deligitimize the outcome. Time to put up or shut up. Saying “I find it hard to believe” something is not putting up.

  • RF

    I find it hard to think Mr. Weir is losing credibility here. When he is being attacked by someone who has no credibility to begin with, I find it hard to think a solid public servant like Steve Weir is losing anything on this blog.

    Ms. O’Day is acting like a conspiracy loving, tin hat wearing, partisan hack. I am more than positive that Ms. O’Day would be silent had Harmer won, no matter what she heard.

    This is a joke of the highest degree. The people have spoken, the mandate given, stop being a poor loser.

  • Elwood

    I have known Steve Weir since he was a pup.

    There is no question in my mind of his dedication and integrity.

  • Patty O’Day

    Finally!!!! Steve Weir finally tells me that there were 482 people whose ballots were rejected and that were recorded in the journals. From day one, that is all I ever asked.

    I never once accused Steve Weir of any wrong doing. I also never accused the poll workers. I just asked how many were rejected. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to know. And now, I finally do know.

    Why it took him so long to answer I have no clue.

    Oh, and a one percent win is hardly a mandate.

  • danvilledan

    Ms. O’Day hit the nail on the head. “I have no clue”.

  • John W

    Re: 17

    Who said 1% (1.1% actually) was a mandate? It is statistically beyond the point where the losing candidate normally looks for reasons to question the outcome.

    We’re all thrilled that you got the answer to your questions and that your posing them in the first place was just out of curiosity rather than calling into question the integrity of the election (and, by implication the volunteers and paid people who conduct them). Happy O’Day!

  • Patty O’Day

    RF in # 15 said it was a mandate.

  • steveweir

    I should just keep quit and allow all concerned to rest in peace.

    However, I have to share with you my experience today.

    Somehow, today, someone, extremely frustrated, because he could not find the answer to his question, dialed (or was referred) to me. It was apparent that the caller was troubled. Long story short, he had been picked up in (a west county city) under 5150, was transported to Martinez, and was ultimately released.

    His simple request to those who returned him to his home was to drop him off a few blocks away, as he understood what a stir it would cause if he was seen being dropped off by “authorities”. This was the behavior of someone with some connection to reality.

    So, let’s not go too far into this experience. The caller wanted to find out how he could avoid being picked up in the future. He had found a web site with County contact info., but nothing that could help him. Try as I might, there was nothing I could do for this person. I don’t just “blow” people off, I try to assist them, even if it is not my ‘department”.

    In my previous posting, I indicated that we had 482 precincts in this past election, thus 482 journals. At no time did I say that we had 482 vote-by-mail ballots rejected by Inspectors at our poll sites.

    Sorry for anyone who is drawing a parallel to my West County “constituent”…no inference intended. But my frustration in trying to facilitate some meaningful understanding of where we are in this election is the same.

    Again, my apologies for not just letting this go.

    The purpose of our journals is to assist us in balancing a precinct if there is a discrepancy ie: someone signed the roster, took the ballot, and did not deposit it into the scanner (thus, we would be sort a ballot). When I was approached about a problem in a Concord precinct, a concern that multiple vote-by-mail ballots were being returned without the presenter being asked about the ballots, I asked that person to identify the precinct so I could read the journal to see if there was anything about rejecting vote-by-mail ballots. That precinct was never identified. I have 482 precincts, 482 journals. Knowing the exact precinct would vastly improve my chances to see if there was anything in that journal that could help me.

  • Gus Morrison

    I actually had a comment written because I read the post just as you described it, but I thought it would just prolong an argument of little import.

    The president of the company I retired from had a poster in his office. It said, “Never get into a mud wrestling contest with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

    Good thing to remember, Steve. And thanks for all the things I learned from your posts on this blog. I almost wish I lived in Contra Costa County so I could vote for you. Almost.

  • Common Tater

    “I should just keep quit and allow all concerned to rest in peace.”

    Absolutely true and that’s where you should have ended your post.

  • ted ford

    I think that Steve Weir is probably the most meticulous and ethical Registrar of Voters in the State of California. I know it’s a bit of a hunch and it’s impossible to have all the data, but I have hired a number of people in my day. I expect that if one were to do a broadly based search to fill such a position, he’d be the top pick.