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.


CD11 is a nail-biter





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.


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.


CD11: Friday jib-jab madness





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.”