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CD11: Debate set for Saturday night

The traditional Tracy Press 11th Congressional District candidate debate has been finalized for Saturday night in Tracy.

It’s the second face-to-face debate between incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney and GOP nominee David Harmer. The Contra Costa Times taped an election preview round-table with the two men earlier in the campaign season. (Watch the video below.)

American Independent Party candidate David Christensen has also been invited to participate Saturday.

The Saturday debate begins at 7 p.m. at Monte Vista Middle School, 751 W. Lowell Avenue, in Tracy.

Read the rest of the details at the Tracy Press web site.

Posted on Friday, October 22nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 4 Comments »

Anti-abortion group enters CD11 fray

A national anti-abortion organization will target the re-election of Rep. Jerry McNerney as part of a 42-Congressional district mail campaign.

The Susan B. Anthony List announced it will spend $3 million on key U.S. Senate and House races and another $3 million on public education in a bid to influence the outcome of mid-term elections and put more pro-life candidates in office. The other House districts on its mid-term target list include those held by reps. Dennis Cardoza and Loretta Sanchez.

McNerney’s challenger, GOP nominee David Harmer, opposes abortion.

Read on for the full news release:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | No Comments »

CD11: Harmer responds to public schools issue

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer will not seek to close public schools if elected, he told the Contra Costa Times editorial board on Tuesday afternoon. (Watch videos of the editorial board meetings with both Harmer and incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney below.)

Harmer, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, wrote in a 2000 opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that “So long as the state Constitution mandates free public schools, a voucher system (or refundable tuition tax credit) is the best we can do. To attain quantum leaps in educational quality and opportunity, however, we need to separate school and state entirely. Government should exit the business of running and funding schools.”

Harmer also co-wrote a similar piece for the Cato Institute.

The piece was intended to be provocative and spur debate over the school voucher issue, Harmer said. He was living in Utah at the time and was a huge proponent of the establishment of a controversial school voucher system, which would have provided parents with money to send their children to private, parochial schools.

When asked directly if he believes that government should stop funding and running schools, Harmer said no.

“I don’t believe public schools should be abolished,” Harmer said. “What I believe is that every child deserves access to a quality education.

As the attorney accurately noted, he sends his four children to public schools in San Ramon and his wife, Elayne, is a substitute teacher for the district.

Harmer has come under considerable fire for his views, however, with coverage in national publications such as Mother Jones and Vanity Fair. The campaign of Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney cites it as “another example of Harmer’s extremist views.”

Watch portions of both the Harmer and McNerney editorial board interviews below. The discussions also featured a wide-ranging discussion of other national issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, fiscal policy and health care reform.

Posted on Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 15 Comments »

CD11: McNerney posts cash lead

Harmer

Harmer

McNerney

McNerney

Democratic incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, of Pleasanton, has a comfortable lead in the cash race against 11th District GOP nominee David Harmer, of San Ramon.

According to federal election filings posted tonight, McNerney has raised $2.42 million, double that of Harmer.

McNerney also has three times more money in the bank as of Sept. 30, the close of the filing period.

McNerney: $2.42 million in contributions; $1.22 million in expenses; $8,024 in debts; and $1.5 million in cash on hand at the close of the reporting period. Within contributions, 66 percent, or $1.6 million, came from individuals, while 34 percent, or $818,803, came from political parties or political action committees.  Click here to read McNerney’s latest FEC report.

Harmer: $1.3 million in contributions; $928,517 in expenses; $28,817 in debts; $489,278 cash on hand at the close of the reporting period. Within contributions, 88 percent, or $1.14 million, came from individuals while 12 percent, or  $158,740, came from political parties or political action committees. Click here to read Harmer’s latest FEC report.

Posted on Friday, October 15th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 6 Comments »

CD11: Dueling polls emerge

McNerney

McNerney

Harmer

Harmer

After yesterday’s release of a KPIX-TV poll showing 11th District GOP nominee David Harmer with a 6-point lead, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney followed today with a statement about an internal poll that gives him a 10-point advantage.

What is a poor voter supposed to believe?

So, here’s the deal.

McNerney’s poll was done on Sept. 21-25, nearly a month ago. That makes a difference. His campaign did not tell us what question was asked, in what order it was ask or provide crosstabs that would break down the age, party or gender of the 500 people surveyed.

That’s typical. Campaigns commission internal polling all the time and they rarely release the details; it’s like asking a football team to publish their playbook. But it also means that we cannot judge the veracity of such polls with any great confidence.

In contrast, all the information about the KPIX-TV poll conducted by SurveyUSA is online. More significant, the television station doesn’t work for either of the candidates. (My personal thanks to the station for spending the money on an independent poll!)

For review purposes, the pollster surveyed 624 likely and actual voters on Oct. 8-11 and found that, if the election were held that day, Harmer would beat McNerney 48 percent to 42 percent. (Click here to read the initial post.)

Which poll is more accurate? Polls are a snapshot in time so the more recent survey is probably a better reflection of current opinions.

But there are some caveats to the SurveyUSA poll. The firm uses an automated telephone polling system. The individual who picks up the phone enters his or her answer via the telephone keypad. No live pollster asks the questions nor can the automated system confirm that an actual voter or likely voter has answered the telephone.

That said, KPIX commissioned similar polls in the 2009 10th Congressional District special election and the results were remarkably close to the final outcome.

The crosstabs show that among the 624 participants, 41 percent identified themselves as Republicans; 39 percent as Democrats and 18 percent as nonpartisan. The most telling result may be among the independents, which prefer Harmer over McNerney 50 percent to 32 percent.

Actual party registration in the district is much closer between the two major parties. But keep in mind that turnout won’t necessarily match registration. Candidates win with a plurality of the votes cast by the people who actually show up.

Read on for McNerney’s full news release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, Congress, congressional district 11 | 17 Comments »

CD11: Harmer leads McNerney in new poll

HARMER

HARMER

MCNERNEY

MCNERNEY

GOP 11th Congressional District nominee David Harmer has a six-point lead — 48 percent vs. 42 percent — over incumbent Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney in an exclusive KPIX-commissioned poll released tonight.

SurveyUSA called 750 people between Oct. 8-11 using an automated telephone system.

In other survey findings:

  • Among men, Harmer leads by 20 points
  • Among women, McNerney leads by 6 — a 26-point gender gap.
  • Harmer has a bubble of support among voters age 35 to 49;
  • The candidates are effectively even among older voters.
  • Harmer, who previously ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Utah’s 2nd District in 1996 and in California’s neighboring 10th Congressional District in a special election last year, takes 8 of 10 Republican votes. McNerney, who is seeking a third term, takes 8 of 10 Democratic votes. Independents break 5:3 for the Republican.

Traditional pollsters pooh-pooh SurveyUSA’s automated phone survey methodology, largely because pollsters cannot verify the identities of the individuals who respond via their telephone key pads. But SurveyUSA was remarkably accurate in the prediction of the outcome of the 2009 10th Congressional District special election.

SurveyUSA obtained responses from 624 likely and actual voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The question was: “If the election for U.S. House of Representatives, were today, would you vote for … (names rotated) Republican David Harmer? Democrat Jerry McNerney?”

David Harmer (R) — 48%

Jerry McNerney (D) — 42 percent

David Christensen (AIP) — 4 percent

Undecided — 5%

Posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 25 Comments »

McNerney downplays Biden visit

The campaign of Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, downplayed this morning’s fundraiser in Oakland with Vice President Joe Biden, carefully keeping the location and details of the visit under wraps.

His campaign spokeswoman Sarah Hersh told me last night that no details were being released because the event was not open to the press.

No offense, but when did open press equate to news value? And what possible down side could there be to news of  McNerney having eggs and bacon with the Vice President of the United States?

My colleague, Josh Richman, unearthed a few morsels this morning, which you can read here. But it was held at the Claremont Hotel, where Biden spent the night. Biden was scheduled to host a fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer later today.

Of c0urse, the campaign of McNerney’s GOP challenger, David Harmer, had something to say about it:

Congressman Jerry McNerney has brought to California today one of the chief architects of the overspending in Washington – Vice President Joe Biden – who is helping raise money for the embattled Congressman’s re-election.

But to avoid the scrutiny of associating with the unpopular Vice President, Jerry McNerney has quietly taken Joe Biden to a high-dollar venue in Oakland, CA, dozens of miles away from any 11th Congressional District voter.

Moreover, details about the Biden event have been carefully guarded from the public as McNerney seeks to avoid being seen in public with the Vice President.

“When a major national figure comes to town, campaigns typically announce it to the world,” said Harmer spokesman Tim Clark. “But details about today’s Biden event have been as elusive as a Jerry McNerney town-hall meeting. They just don’t exist anywhere in the public.”

“No press invites, no insider releases, nothing, nada,” continued Clark. “It must have been a real challenge for Biden to agree to secrecy, especially considering his talent for self promotion. One thing is for sure, with all the hot air from this California heat wave blowing around, Biden will fit right in.”

Posted on Friday, October 1st, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 27 Comments »

CD11: McNerney fires back at Harmer

In the latest television ad in the 11th Congressional District race, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney is hitting GOP opponent David Harmer on the challenger’s occupation as a former lawyer in the banking industry.

The Democrat hopes to paint Harmer as shady lawyer who engaged in unscrupulous predatory lending practices and benefited from federal bailout program that the Republican now opposes.

While many may view a lawyer who worked for a credit card company as unworthy of admiration or a vote, McNerney’s claims fall considerably short of the truth. Here’s fact-check.

What it says: “The file on David Harmer isn’t pretty.
A corporate lawyer for a credit card company fined millions
Even deceiving seniors. An executive for predatory lenders.”

Is it true? Yes, Harmer’s employer engaged in nefarious practices for which it paid fines but Harmer had nothing to do with them. Harmer did not join Providian until September 2001, a year after the company paid a $305 million fine related to charges that it tricked customers into buying products they did not want. For example, Providian approved credit cards for poor people and subsequently imposed fees and limits that trapped them into debts they could never repay.

Harmer says he was part of the clean-up team hired to whip the company into shape. “It was unconscionable what (prior Providian managers) did,” Harmer said. “The entire top management tier was fired and replaced. But I was part of the solution.”

Undeniably, media and regulatory investigations into the entire credit card industry in recent years has revealed a number of predatory practices such as excessive interest rates and a failure to disclose to customers that making minimum payments would never allow retirement of the debt.

But blaming Harmer for an entire industry’s failings is at least as questionable as blaming McNerney for every one of Congress’ shortcomings.

What it says: “…  Harmer’s bank got billions from the Wall Street bank bail out.”

Is it true? Yes, JPMorgan Chase received federal bailout money but there is no evidence that Harmer benefited from it.

Providian was sold to Washington Mutual, where Harmer continued to work as a vice president and associate lawyer in its credit card division. When Washington Mutual’s home lending division bankrupted the company, federal regulators orchestrated a purchase by JPMorgan Chase in September 2008, Within a few months, JPMorgan closed down the credit card division and Harmer was laid off in January 2009. He was paid $485,779 between Jan. 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009, in salary, severance and bonuses.

JPMorgan received received $25 billion from the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program roughly two weeks after the FDIC conducted the sale of Washington Mutual. But there is no evidence that JPMorgan Chase, which had just bought Bear Stearns, needed or used the TARP funds to buy Washington Mutual or pay the salaries or severance packages of Harmer and the other employees the new owner sent packing.

JPMorgan Chase repaid the TARP money with interest as soon as federal authorities allowed it.

Here is the ad:

Posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 27 Comments »

CD11: Joust begins over NRCC ad

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney’s campaign has asked Comcast to pull the National Republican Congressional Committee’s new anti-McNerney television ad on the grounds that it is “false, misleading and knowingly misstates (McNerney’s) position on the issue of executive compensation.”

In response, the NRCC filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that McNerney is violating campaign finance law through his campaign’s use of “volunteer legal counsel,” as indicated in the campaign’s protest letter to Comcast.  The GOP argues that the legal work qualifies as an in-kind contribution from the Walnut Creek-based firm of Jerome Pandell but has not been disclosed as such.

Most of the ad’s content is a matter of opinion. The ad targets McNerney on high unemployment rates and his support of the $787 billion stimulus package, which most economists agree slowed but did not substantially reverse the downturn.

The NRCC is running ads in roughly 20 congressional districts, including a relatively small $44,000 media buy to air the McNerney spot. He is  running against GOP nominee David Harmer of Dougherty Valley.

The McNerney campaign’s central objection, as outlined in Pandell’s Sept. 13 protest letter to Comcast, is correct.  The comment that “McNerney gave away millions in bonuses for Wall Street’s failure” is wildly misleading. The ad refers to McNerney’s vote in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus package.

Contrary to the implication of the political spot, the legislation actually placed new limits on executive compensation. Here is the twist: Congress could not legally retroactively apply the new restrictions to executives working under existing contracts, and as a result, some Wall Street honchos collected obscene bonuses. It was disgusting but the stimulus package did not create nor enable the previously agreed upon bonus payouts. (Update: NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos disagrees with me. See her response below.)

Here is the NRCC ad.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 2 Comments »

CD11 campaigns trade jabs

Harmer

Harmer

McNerney

McNerney

It must be after Labor Day. The congressional campaign press release machine is fired up.

Congressional District 11 GOP nominee David Harmer’s camp slammed Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney for remaining mum on the Republican’s request for joint appearances at town halls “to explain (McNerney’s) voting record and contrast his ideas with that of (Harmer.)”

This is a silly and oft-repeated allegation every campaign season. No candidate is going to show up at an event organized by the opposition and the logistics associated with finding a neutral host acceptable to both sides are notoriously difficult. (Update: I forgot to mention that Harmer and McNerney have met face-to-face already. They participated in the Election Previews 2010 sponsored by this newspaper, among others. Watch the video at http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid602027069001?bclid=601345262001&bctid=602031263001)

On the other hand, Harmer’s side accurately notes that yet another national political handicapper, the Cook Political Report, has moved District 11 into the toss-up category from leans Democrat. The National Journal and RealClearPolitics also made the shift although Rasmussen and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have not.

The trend reflects a Republican midterm wave that Cook and his counterparts predict will result in massive losses for Democrats and possibly control of Congress.

Here is what Cook wrote today:

“…Harmer, who runs as a “constitutional conservative” and can actually call himself a Reagan Republican (he spent some of his childhood in Reagan’s office while his dad was serving as lieutenant governor), is running a more energetic campaign than the last two GOP nominees did. This is really two districts in one: rural San Joaquin County is a big problem for Democrats this year, and Harmer also has some demonstrated appeal in the East Bay (he took an impressive 43 percent of the vote last November in the uber-Democratic 10th CD special election). Meanwhile, McNerney is emphasizing his work opening a new veterans’ hospital, but a continued high unemployment and foreclosure rate here means voters want answers on jobs. Most polling shows McNerney ahead by single digits, but under 50 percent and clearly in more trouble than others in the California delegation. This race is virtually guaranteed to tighten as Harmer introduces himself, and it joins the Toss Up column.” (Cook Political Report, “Ratings Changes in 10 Districts,” 09/09/10)

On the other side of the aisle, McNerney’s team blasted Harmer for what it called misleading and inaccurate information in the Republican’s first television ad:

In the ad, David Harmer claims that he is a “constitutional attorney” who spent his career “protecting taxpayers.” In fact, David Harmer has over a decade of experience as a corporate lawyer for some of the country’s most notorious credit card, debt collection, and predatory lending corporations, including Providian Financial, Washington Mutual, JP Morgan Chase, and a Utah based debt collection agency, Riddle and Associates.

“David Harmer has spent his entire career as a corporate lawyer for corporations with a history of ripping off taxpayers,” said Doug Greven, campaign manager, McNerney for Congress. “It’s clear from his days as a senior official with some of the most notorious credit card, debt collection, and predatory lending institutions that the only interests David Harmer has protected are those of big corporations.”

The use of the word “notorious” is clearly subjective, but McNerney’s camp is correct in that Harmer has spent far more of his career working as counsel for credit card and other finance companies than as a constitutional attorney.  (Click here to read my blog on Harmer’s non-banking legal posts.)

Posted on Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Under: 2010 election, congressional district 11 | 3 Comments »