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CD11: Court dispute continues Monday, McNerney holds small lead

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney inched his way toward re-election as updated counts today showed him with a slim 548-vote lead over opponent and GOP nominee David Harmer.

But the outcome is still a long way from settled.

The gap represents a tiny 0.3 percentage points of the 176,108 votes counted in the 11th Congressional District, which remains one of nine House races nationwide still too close to call. The four county elections offices within the 11th District are plowing through the uncounted mail-in and provisional ballots but thousands of votes remain to be processed.

The fiercely contested race also had its first day in court today, as Republicans sought to force Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir to allow their election-count observers to challenge the veracity of signatures on vote-by-mail envelopes.

A Contra Costa County judicial commissioner declined to sign a temporary restraining order that would have stopped the signature verification process but kicked the dispute into Superior Court, where it is set for a full hearing Monday morning.

Weir said state law specifically allows pollworkers to challenge a voter’s right to cast a ballot and those who present proof before the election that an individual who was issued a vote-by-mail ballot is ineligible to vote. Election count observers, he said, are permitted only to question whether workers are following established procedures.

Every voter whose eligibility comes into question has the right to answer the allegation, Weir said, and allowing casual observers to challenge a voter after the fact is “not going to happen,” Weir said. “If a judge orders it, then we’ll have to see what we do next.”

GOP attorney Charles Bell argued that observation alone cannot ensure election accuracy. He told the court that Weir has failed to provide adequate access to the signature-verification process and observers should have the right to challenge a signature that doesn’t appear to match the original signature in the county’s voter registration database.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

I also thought readers might be interested in the county-by-county breakdowns as of this afternoon:

ALAMEDA COUNTY (15.5 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 42.6 percent, 11,950 votes
  • McNerney: 57.4 percent, 16,086 votes
  • GAP: 14.8 percent, or 4,136 votes, in McNerney’s favor

CONTRA COSTA (24.6 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 50.4 percent, 24,070 votes
  • McNerney: 49.6 percent, 23,718 percent
  • GAP: 0.7 points, or 352 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (53.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 52.5 percent, 45,958 votes
  • McNerney: 47.5 percent, 41,612 votes
  • GAP: 5 points, or 4,346 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (5.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 45.6 percent, 5,802 votes
  • McNerney: 54 percent, 6,912 votes
  • GAP: 8.7 points, or 1,110 votes, in McNerney’s favor

TOTAL

  • Harmer: 49.8 percent, of 87,780 votes
  • McNerney: 50.2 percent, or 88,328 votes
  • GAP: 0.3 percent, or 548 votes, in McNerney’s favor

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 31 Comments »

CD11: Harmer taking Contra Costa to court

Harmer

Harmer

McNerney

McNerney

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer will seek a court order in Superior Court in Martinez this afternoon to stop the vote-by-mail signature verification process in Contra Costa County.

Harmer, who ran against incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney on Tuesday, says his team should be allowed to challenge the signatures on vote-by-mail ballots.

Contra Costa Election Clerk Steve Weir disagrees. He says the county’s written procedures and guidelines clearly state that observers may challenge the process of counting ballots but not individual signatures.

Challenges to a specific voter’s right to cast a ballot must be made through a pollworker at the polls or through a challenge of a voter who has requested a vote-by-mail ballot, Weir said.  This allows the voter to respond to a challenge of his or her right to cast a ballot.

“While Harmer has claimed irregularities, not one instance has been presented to us,” Weir said.

Harmer spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin disagreed and said the other three counties in District 11 allow challenges of signatures on submitted vote-by-mail ballots.

“We just want to ensure that the signature review process is done openly, fairly and transparently,” she said. “Neither side is being afforded the opportunity to review and observe the signature review process.”

The backdrop of this legal dispute is the outcome of the 11th District election.

McNerney leads by 568 votes, an incredibly tight 0.3 percentage point advantage. The votes were breaking the Democrat’s way on Election Day, which means McNerney has little incentive to challenge the counting of ballots that arrived in election offices on Monday and Tuesday.

Harmer, on the other hand, could benefit if signatures on late arriving ballots are deemed invalid and thrown out, ensuring that potential votes for his opponent never show up on the tally.

Stay tuned.

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 67 Comments »

CD11: McNerney’s lead expands slightly

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney inched his way toward re-election with updated counts showing him with a 568-vote lead over opponent, GOP nominee David Harmer.

For McNerney, the trend is promising. He started out more than 3 percentage points behind in early returns but steadily closed the gap throughout the evening as the Election Day votes broke in his favor.

But the outcome is still far from decided.

The 568-vote gap represents a scant 0.3 percentage points of the 167,730 votes cast in the 11th Congressional District, which remains one of nine House races nationwide still undetermined.

And the latest numbers, posted last night, came from Alameda and Santa Clara counties, where McNerney was already winning.

Both camps anxiously await today’s vote count updates from Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties.

Harmer has a 5 percentage point lead over McNerney in the more conservative San Joaquin, and the pair are almost tied in Contra Costa County.

Tens of thousands of votes remained to be counted after Election Day, largely due to an influx of vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at the polls.  Most election clerks hope to wrap up the counting by the end of next week and certify the results before Thanksgiving.

If the 11th District vote remains close, there could be recount.

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 2 Comments »

CD11 is a nail-biter

McNerney

McNerney

Harmer

Harmer

Early this morning, Rep. Jerry McNerney had squeaked out a 121-vote lead over GOP nominee David Harmer in the 11th Congressional District, but no one is celebrating or packing up their campaign offices yet.

Thousands of votes remain uncounted in the four counties within District 11, and Contra Costa and San Joaquin election officials, the largest voter contingent within the district, say they don’t expect to post their next round of updated vote counts until late this week and next week. (UPDATE: Contra Costa says it will have one round of updates on Friday, and another next week. Other counties have similar plans.) Nov. 12.

Why are there uncounted votes?

Election officials typically stop counting vote-by-mail ballots a day or two before Election Day in order to prepare for precinct operations. When the Election Day tallies are done, they process the vote-by-mail ballots that arrived in the mail over the weekend, Monday and Tuesday plus the VBMs dropped off at the polls on Election Day.

With the growing numbers of VBM voters and their tendency to drop them off at the polls, it drives up processing time. VBM ballots must be checked for valid signatures, stripped from their envelopes, manually rolled to remove the tri-fold creases and hand-fed into scanners. It takes a lot longer to count VBM ballots than the ballots filled out at precincts, which are fed directly into optical scanners.

I talked with Harmer and McNerney today and both sides have reasons for optimism.

For McNerney, it was clear that Election Day voters broke in the Democrat’s direction. Harmer was leading by 3 or more percentage points after the first wave of early vote-by-mail ballot counts were posted.

That gap slowly closed as Election Day counts emerged.  If the trend continues as election official count the remaining ballots, McNerney’s lead could expand and he could keep his seat. Democrats poured wads of cash into anti-Harmer ads in the 11th District in the final week, which probably spurred their voters to show up at the polls.

On the other hand, Harmer did well among early VBM voters, and it is possible that he could recover his equilibrium among the later VBM voters, particularly in San Joaquin County. Harmer held a 5 percentage point lead in San Joaquin, where 53.9 percent of District 11 voters live.

Here’s a county-by-county breakdown of the votes as of this morning, keeping in mind that all four counties still have significant numbers of uncounted ballots:

ALAMEDA COUNTY (15.5 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 42.7 percent, 11,679 votes
  • McNerney: 57.3 percent, 15,688 votes
  • GAP: 14.6 percent, or 4,009 votes, in McNerney’s favor

CONTRA COSTA (24.6 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 50.4 percent, 19.871 votes
  • McNerney: 49.6 percent, 19,539 percent
  • GAP: 0.8 points, or 332 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (53.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 52.5 percent, 45,958 votes
  • McNerney: 47.5 percent, 41,612 votes
  • GAP: 5 points, or 4,436 votes, in Harmer’s favor

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (5.9 percent of District 11 voters)

  • Harmer: 46 percent, 4,495 votes
  • McNerney: 54 percent, 5,285 votes
  • GAP: 8.1 points, or 790 votes, in McNerney’s favor

The other big question folks are asking about District 11 is whether or not there will be a recount.

It depends.

Contrary to what people seem to think, California has no automatic recount trigger mechanism.

Any voter may request a recount within five calendar days after the certification of the final election results but he or she must pay for it.  A county election officer may also conduct a recount  at taxpayer’s expense if the official has reason to believe that a mechanical error or some other processing mistake has led to incorrect results.

Typically, a voter requests a recount on behalf of a candidate, who foots the bill. Alameda County,  for example, requires a $5,000 deposit and can charge up to $1,500 a day depending on the type of recount requested. A hand recount costs more than a simple re-scan of ballots.

If the count is close, it’s possible that the candidate on the losing side of the final number will seek a recount.

Some folks confuse a this type of recount with the mandatory, 1 percent audit of election returns required of every county election office by the state. But these audits consist of a reconciliation of machine counts with paper ballots on 1 percent of the county’s entire rate of return. It is not race-specific. If the audit reveals discrepancies, the county elections office may boost the audit to 5 or 10 percent of returns in order to find the source of the problem, but that rarely happens, says East Bay election officials.

If you are curious about California Election Code provisions for recounts, click here and read Chapter 9 starting with Section 15600.

Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 36 Comments »

CD11: Get ready for some politics

The weekend blitz is about to begin in the 11th Congressional District as the forces of Democratic incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney and GOP nominee David Harmer converge on the district.

This is one of 50 or more congressional seats in the country that could flip parties and put the GOP in charge of the House of Representatives, and both sides can taste victory.

Your doorbell may ring. Your mailbox will fill up. Your doorknob may be festooned. A candidate or his proxy may show up at your house. And your radio and TV stations will blare with the latest advertising, much of it featuring wildly distorted and unreliable information.

California unions are gearing up for major precinct work this weekend as they push to get Democrats to the polls in support of their candidates from the top of the ticket on down to the local races.

Outside groups are still spending big in the 11th District, too. By far, the largest cash infusion is into the anti-Harmer campaign. Here’s how it broke down as of this afternoon:

  • Oppose Harmer: $1.3 million
  • Support Harmer: $66,905
  • Oppose McNerney: $458,910
  • Support McNerney: $140,899

Here’s a list of the organizations, the political leanings and what they have spent:

  • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, liberal: $1,031,191
  • National Republican Congressional Committee, conservative: $357,842
  • American Federation Of State County And Municipal Employees AFL-CIO, liberal: $149,999
  • America’s Families First Action Fund 149,999
  • Club For Growth Action, conservative: $65,224
  • Defenders Of Wildlife Action Fund, liberal: $58,492
  • Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte, liberal: $47,911
  • National Rifle Association Of America Political Victory Fund, conservative: $47,577
  • Americans For Limited Government, conservative: $27,470
  • America Votes, conservative: $26,822
  • League Of Conservation Voters, Inc., liberal: $24,759
  • Republican Majority Campaign, conservative: $10,773
  • Humane Society Legislative Fund, liberal: $9,736
  • Susan B Anthony List Inc., conservative anti-abortion group: $5,924
  • National Right To Life Political Action Committee, conservative: $5,372
  • Freedomworks Inc. Political Action Committee, conservative: $3,107
  • Revere America, conservative: $2,526

If you want to check the FEC independent expenditures over the weekend, visit this web site, click on “customize” and enter the candidate’s name.

Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 6 Comments »

CD11: Friday jib-jab madness

Harmer

Harmer

McNerney

McNerney

As the Congressional District 11 candidates launch themselves into the final weekend before Election Day, the spin cycle spit out a few interesting jib-jabs.

HYPOCRISY, ANYONE? The campaign of Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney blasted a press release about how GOP nominee David Harmer received a $5,000 contribution from JP Morgan Chase PAC on Oct. 22.

And then the Dems continued to beat the false drum about how Harmer took federal bailout money from JP Morgan Chase.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s nonsense. Harmer was an attorney in the credit card division in Pleasanton when JP Morgan Chase bought his employer, Washington Mutual.

WaMu went broke because it made bad home loans; it had nothing to do with the credit card division.  Four months later, Harmer was laid off along with everyone else in WaMu’s old credit card division. He received a severance package and a performance bonus worth about $160,000; he worked for JP Morgan Chase about four months.

There is no evidence that JP Morgan Chase needed or used the $25 billion in federal bailout money it received to either buy Washington Mutual or pay Harmer’s package. JP Morgan was not in financial trouble but the federal government demanded the nation’s top dozen or so banks accept the money in order to maintain public confidence in the American banking system. JP Morgan paid back the full loan with interest on the first day it was allowed to do so.

Yes, as a Republican who wants to cut regulations, Harmer is far more likely to take positions and cast votes that will meet with the approval of the financial industry. If this concerns you, vote for McNerney.

But it’s a hit fraught with peril for McNerney, who recently told Harmer, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.”

After all, the congressman voted for the bail-out and Opensecret.org shows that McNerney has accepted nearly $25,000 in contributions this campaign from investment and securities sources. Harmer’s campaign also says McNerney has accepted during his political career thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the employees, PACs and lobbyists of companies that have applied or or received federal earmarks at his request, according to their analysis of FEC reports.

McNerney has plenty of contributions on his list from which critics could make allegations of special interest influence.

“If my opponent wants to talk about contributions, he needs to apply the same standard to himself,” Harmer said.

SERIOUSLY? The Harmer camp put out an absurd press release today touting an audiotape in which McNerney praises GOP nemesis and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her persistence in pursuit of passage of the health care legislation at a time when President Barack Obama wanted to back off.

Here what “Jerry McNerney has to say about Pelosi when he thinks voters aren’t listening!” reads the release, complete with a link to a YouTube clip.

Oooh, a secret audio tape. How delicious. Unfortunately for the Harmer camp, the clip came from a Democratic Party lunch this summer where McNerney was a speaker. Gee, I guess no real voters show up at Democratic Party luncheons.

Yes, McNerney agrees with Pelosi on a lot of issues.  She is the Democratic House leader. He is a Democrat. If voters don’t like the Democrats’ platform, they can vote for Harmer. And there is no question that McNerney, along with most Democrats, is not squiring Pelosi around his district as a way to raise money or attract votes; she is a polarizing figure that most campaigns would rather avoid.

But the suggestion that McNerney is hiding his admiration for Pelosi or his support for her leadership is nonsense.

Here’s the clip if you want to hear what McNerney said.

DONOR OCCUPATION OF THE DAY: Dominic Scotto, owner of From The Heart Home Care, donated $1,000 to Harmer and for his occupation, he wrote, “Beleaguered Businessman.”

Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 4 Comments »

CD11: On the trail with McNerney

I spent two days on the campaign trail with Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney and GOP nominee David Harmer.

Watch for a full-length story in Sunday’s newspaper.

Here are video clips of my time on Tuesday with McNerney. (Click here for a link to videos of my day with Harmer on Thursday.)

Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 1 Comment »

CD11: On the trail with Harmer

I spent two days on the campaign trail with Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney and GOP nominee David Harmer.

Watch for my full-length story in Sunday’s newspaper.

Here are video clips of my time on Thursday with Harmer. (Click here for a link to videos of my day with McNerney on Tuesday.)

Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 1 Comment »

CD11: FEC and IEs

Finally. A week out from the Nov. 2 midterm election, the Federal Election Commission unveils a searchable, online database of independent expenditures.

Check it out at this link: http://www.fec.gov/data/IndependentExpenditure.action?format=html

Until this site, individuals interested in independent expenditures filed with the FEC — those expenses promoting or opposing a candidate that take place outside a candidate’s control — had to plod through gawd-awful online lists, deploy “find on screen” techniques and use (gasp) calculators.

Opensecrets.org has recently made this information more readily available, too, but it is nice to go directly to the source.

I did a quick search on the 11th Congressional District candidates, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney and GOP nominee David Harmer, and found a total of $1.5 million has been spent. The bulk of the money has gone into anti-Harmer campaign.

I downloaded the data, did a quick pivot table and here is the breakdown:

  • Oppose Harmer: $1,038,292
  • Support Harmer: $6,471
  • Oppose McNerney: $391,235
  • Support McNerney: $68,228

Posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 1 Comment »

CD11: Debate in Tracy generates heat

While the rest of you were stuck watching the San Francisco Giants game on Saturday night, I was sitting in a Tracy elementary school gymnasium watching the 11th Congressional District candidate debate.

No, seriously, I was happy. I’m not a sports fan.

Click here to read my story on the debate.

It was a rowdy evening full of good, old-fashioned political heat.

But it was also wildly crowded. The media table was stuffed against a side wall and people stood three and four deep in front of me. Since I couldn’t get a clear video shot of the candidates, I relied on the daughters of one of the campaign consultant with seats in the front row to hold up my FlipVideo. (Yes, it was a GOP consultant’s daughter but there was almost no one in this audience who didn’t have a preference, so I went with the first willing volunteer. And since I was there and I retrieved the video immediately afterward, I’m confident there was no funny business.)

I took the the first short video, which is a sweep of the crowd.

The second video, thanks to my video-camera-holding volunteer, is the majority of the debate. (My FlipVideo only holds an hour. As a result, I’ve persuaded my editor to let me buy a new micro-camcorder that will hold up to four hours.)

Posted on Monday, October 25th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | No Comments »