CD11: Great NYT story about Miller’s D.C. flophouse

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez

Check out this super smart New York Times story by Ashley Parker at the NYT:

WASHINGTON — This week’s news that Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, is planning to retire at the end of the year reverberated around the House of Representatives, where Mr. Miller has served since 1975.

But the news hit even harder around another less stately, more fratlike house about a quarter-mile southeast of the Capitol, where Mr. Miller has lived for more than 30 years with a rotating cadre of congressional Democrats — and which served as the inspiration for the Amazon web series “Alpha House.”

Mr. Miller, 68, who owns the two-story, two-bedroom house — part messy crash pad, part political seminar — currently shares it with Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the majority whip, and Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat … 

Read the rest of the story here.


GOP fret in 11th District premature

Republicans worry too many candidates will flood the Congressional District 11 primary in 2012 and lead to repeat of the party’s narrow November loss in the 11th Congressional District, reports The Hill, a Washington, D.C., politics publication.

GOP nominee David Harmer prevailed in a hard-fought, expensive four-way primary before falling short against incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney in the general election.

The Hill also writes that the GOP’s predicament could be exacerbated by the new voter-approved open primary system under which the top two finishers in congressional and legislative races in June will compete in the November general election regardless of party affiliation.

Undoubtedly, the party is fielding plenty of calls from would-be congressional candidates who remember the GOP’s high hopes for win this district last year. And we’ve seen the GOP spent a few bucks lately on robocalls targeting McNerney, which suggests the party intends to again focus on the seat.

One 24-year-old San Joaquin County Republican, Ricky Gill, a UC-Berkeley law student, has declared his candidacy, The Hill says. And Elizabeth Emken, one of four Republicans who ran in the 2010 primary, may re-enter.  My sources say Harmer, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice in California, is moving on to other pursuits.

But it is premature to start losing sleep over the 11th District from either political camp.

For one, this district appears likely to experience major boundary changes under redistricting. It’s a heavily gerrymandered district split by the Altamont Pass and spread across four counties. Mapping experts believe the independent map-making process now under way will produce a more compact 11th District whose party registration balance could look very different — it’s almost dead even at the moment — when it’s over. The state redistricting panel is redrawing the maps and will release drafts in early June.

A party registration gap of 5 or 6 points one way or the other in a newly constituted 11th District would make a huge difference in the predictive success — and ability to attract contributions — of any Republican challenger. And while members of Congress are not legally required to live in the districts they represent, it’s a big advantage.

Second, the top-two primary could encourage other Democrats to run against McNerney. Granted, Democrats will work hard behind the scenes to avoid such a scenario.

But the whole point of the top two primary was to provide voters a choice between the two most viable candidates by allowing them to advance to the general election even if they hail from the same party.


McNerney named leader on veterans committee



Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will serve as the ranking Democratic Party member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

In a quote provided by his office, McNerney said, “I’m honored to serve as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. This subcommittee is responsible for overseeing most benefits for our veterans, such as disability and pension benefits. I’m committed to improving care for the men and women who have served our country and, as ranking member of this important subcommittee I will continue my work in this area.”

Like most members of Congress, McNerney has developed an strong policy interest in a particular arena. McNerney focuses heavily on veterans issues and has sat on the committee since 2007. Many Democrats lost their favored committee assignments after the GOP took majority control of the House. The Republican leaders also reduced committee sizes, which further reduced the Democrats’ assignments.

According to McNerney’s office: The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs oversees the process by which the Department of Veterans Affairs provides benefits for veterans, including disability, pension, life insurance and burial benefits. The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs is also responsible for overseeing the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims. These bodies review and issue decisions for benefit claims determinations made by local veterans offices.


McNerney returns to science committee



In yet another fall-out after the Democrats’ loss of majority status in the House of Representatives, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will lose his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

He will return to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, his first assignment after he was initially elected in 2006. McNerney will remain on the Veterans Affairs Committee, his signature policy area. He had served on Energy and Commerce just one term.

“The congressman enjoyed his time on the Energy and Commerce Committee, but he is very excited about going back to the Science, Space and Technology Committee,” said spokeswoman Sarah Hersh.

A PHd mathematician who designed wind turbines, McNerney has a keen interest in green technology and science.

McNerney’s shift is the result of the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives. Not only does the majority party hold more seats on committees but the GOP leaders also cut the overall size of the committees.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, lost his seat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, leaving the Bay Area with no direct representation on the committee.  And Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, will leave the House Natural Resources Committee after more than 35 years on the panel.


Nearly $7 million spent on CD11 campaign

California 11th Congressional District’s candidates, political parties and other groups spent $6.76 million on the campaign, according to new figures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Victorious Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, significantly outspent his opponent, GOP nominee David Harmer, $3 million vs. $2 million.

But it was the independent expenditures that put McNerney in the serious money: The vast majority of the $2 million spent by groups outside the campaign targeted Harmer or supported McNerney.

A great deal of the anti-Harmer money was spent in the final 10 days of the campaign, and the Republican’s supporters failed to match the dollars.

(Update: A caller reminds me that these totals do not include the money spent by groups that do not have to file with the FEC. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federal of Business spent money to help Harmer in this campaign.)

Here’s a breakdown of the totals:

MCNERNEY: $2.88 million, total contributions; $3.03 million, total expenses; $8,024 in debts; $38,008 cash on hand.

HARMER: $1.88 million, total contributions; $1.97 total expenses; $36,247 in  debts;  $36,247 cash on hand.

Independent expenditures totaled more than $2 million:

  • Oppose Harmer $1,358,010
  • Support Harmer $68,342
  • Oppose McNerney: $459,109
  • Support McNerney $140,899
  • TOTAL: $2,026,361

CD11: Harmer speaks out but no concession yet



UPDATE: DEC. 3, 2010, 4:41 P.M. Harmer made the call to McNerney about an hour ago, where he officially conceded and congratulated McNerney.

As it turns out, unsuccessful 11th Congressional District GOP nominee David Harmer isn’t missing. He was moving. Literally.

The lease on his San Ramon house expired Nov. 30, and he and his wife, Elayne, and their four kids, have been packing, moving and unpacking their new household. They didn’t go far; just a mile away to another house in Windemere, one that will allow his children to stay in their current schools.

But no, Harmer isn’t ready to concede even though he characterized his chances of overturning Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney’s victory as a miracle comparable to that of the parting of the Red Sea. (Read my full news story here.)

Prior to making that concession call to McNerney or issuing a statement, his skeletal remaining campaign staff wants to review the precinct-level voting data from Contra Costa County. Harmer says they are looking for irregularities that might indicate a problem, such as wildly out-of-whack results.

If they find major problems, they could request a recount or seek intervention from the House of Representatives, which could overrule the local election results. (The last time that happened was in the 1980s in an Indiana congressional race.)

“We haven’t been itching to contest the results, no one enjoys that,” Harmer said during a telephone call this morning. “What we have wanted to do is to understand what happened, and to the extent there are any questions about the accuracy or legitimacy of the process, we want to address those in a responsible way so that questions don’t linger into the future. It is for the benefit of all the participants.”

What are Harmer’s immediate plans?

Get a job and lose the 20 pounds he gained the on the campaign trail, he says.

The attorney has been campaigning full-time for the past 1 1/2 years, and the family savings account has dwindled, he says.

“I think you asked me at some point earlier in the campaign what I would do if I lost, and I said that the Harmer family would be grateful for the chance to serve but if we lost, the Harmer family would be grateful to return to normal life,” Harmer said. “That’s still true.”

He says he has no plans to run for public office again, although one “never says never.”

Harmer has run for Congress three times; in Utah in 1996, the 10th District in California in 2009 and the 11th District, where he lost by 1.1 percentage points.

“My feeling is that if we couldn’t do it this year, when could we do it?” Harmer said. “We were running during a predicted Republican wave and we couldn’t have had a better campaign operation. It’ s hard to imagine doing better.”

The toughest part about the outcome, Harmer says, has been dealing with not only his own disappointment but that of his family and supporters. They invested a great deal of time, emotion and money into his candidacy.

“It’s hard not to feel as though you let people down,” Harmer said. “But disappointment is different than regret. You never regret playing the game just because you lost.”

As for speculation about the financial state of his campaign, Harmer says the final numbers will show a modest surplus. He may even refund a portion of contributions made to his campaign after Election Day.