Emken lost big to DiFi, but not as big as others

You’ve gotta give this to Elizabeth Emken of Danville – although she lost her race against U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein by almost 23 percentage points, she still had a better showing than any Republican has against Feinstein in a loooong time.

Elizabeth EmkenWith some ballots still yet to be counted, Emken finished with 38.6 percent of the vote compared to Feinstein’s 61.4 percent.

If you are surprised by this result, you haven’t been paying attention. On the other hand, Emken did comparably well.

Six years ago, former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, finished with 35.1 percent of the vote against Feinstein; six years before that, Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Campbell, finished with 36.6 percent.

In fact, the only Republican challenging an incumbent Feinstein who outperformed Emken was Michael Huffington way back in 1994, with 44.8 percent of the vote to Feinstein’s 46.7 percent. And Huffington spent $28 million of his own money on that bid – at the time, the most expensive campaign in a non-presidential election in American history – while Emken ran her campaign this year on a half-million-dollar shoestring.

And speaking of shoes, Emken must’ve worn out a lot of shoe leather as she travelled all over the state to reach as many voters as she could in person, since a broadcast media campaign was out of the question on her budget. She also leveraged her social media presence to good advantage as a tireless tweeter. Her final tweet of the campaign came at 7:59 p.m. Tuesday night: “I’ve had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.”

Spokesman Mark Standriff said Emken was at the doctor’s office with laryngitis Wednesday afternoon, but he offered some thoughts on her behalf.

“Elizabeth worked the phones, the meetings and the media harder than any three candidates I’ve ever known. She connected with people on a personal level that they weren’t used to seeing or hearing from politicians, and she won over virtually everyone she met during the campaign,” he said.

“The political establishment should look at these results and rethink their qualification criteria for recruiting and funding candidates,” Standriff added. “She didn’t have a political track record, she couldn’t write a $5 million check, but Elizabeth had the one thing that really resonates with voters, and that’s sincerity. With her resume, her drive and the right amount of resources, just imagine what the outcome might have been.”

I didn’t make it to Feinstein’s news conference this morning in San Francisco, but a staffer tells me she “talked about the need for cooperation between the parties, her gratitude to California and her concern about the looming fiscal cliff.”

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.