McNerney to visit Mexico-California border

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, will lead a two-day congressional trip to the border of California and Mexico on Sunday and Monday, where he will hear firsthand from federal border patrol agents about efforts to stem illegal border crossings and stop drug trafficking.

The visit will include briefs, his staff said, on various aspects of the border control operation along 66 miles of the border south of San Diego. He will tour several ports of entry, meet with agents and view specialty teams and equipment used to monitor and patrol the border.

“I’d like to hear what kind of trends they are sensing and if they have found any particularly effective strategies to combat illegal border crossings and drug running,” McNerney said in a prepared release.

McNerney will talk from the border with reporters on Monday morning during a call-in press conference.

As a Democrat seeking re-election in a Republican-leaning district, illegal immigration is a subject that will definitely come up during his campaign this year against his expected GOP challenger, former Stockton Assemblyman Dean Andal.

Immigration reform remains a hot button political issue across the nation but Republicans, Democrats and President George W. Bush have been unable to come to an agreement. They disagree on how to handle the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living in the country and the formation of a guest worker program that wouldn’t cripple industries that rely on migrants such as the picking of crops.

McNerney, who formed an agricultural advisory committee in his district, is a co-sponsor of a bill in Congress under consideration that creates a federally overseen program to permit immigrants to work in the U.S.agricultural industry for a temporary, specified period of time with a specific job, said McNerney spokesman Andy Stone.


Will trade beard for cash

Nicholas GerberGOP congressional hopeful Nicholas Gerber says he is already listening to his constituents.

And they apparently prefer him clean-shaven. Gerber says folks are telling him to ditch the beard.

“Polls even show that voters prefer candidates without beards,” Gerber says.

But there’s no free shave for Republicans who can’t abide the sight of a 5 o’clock shadow. Gerber says he will lather up and remove that unsightly facial hair if Contra Costa’s Republican womens groups donate $100,000 to his campaign against incumbent Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo.

Gerber told the San Ramon Valley Republican Women on Tuesday that he needs $1 million to run against Tauscher in 2008. (She has already raised nearly $500,000 as of Sept. 30.)

“If each of you writes a $35 check and you persuade 10 of your friends to write $35 checks and we do this in all the Republican women clubs, we will have raised $100,000,” Gerber said.

Gerber says he has contributed $100,000 of his own money and if the women pony up, that still leaves him $800,000 short. Well, not quite. As of Sept. 30, he reported $1,350 in contributions to the Federal Election Commission, so he’s $798,650 shy of his target.

At this rate, he’ll have to sell his beard quite a few times between now and November 2008.

But all is not lost. According to “Presidential Trivia” by Richard Lederer, from Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin Harrison, every U.S. president to have a beard has been a Republican.


Bob Dole endorses Assembly candidate Lloyd

Judy Biviano LloydEndorsements don’t often get my attention; they’re usually predictable and ubiquitous.

But here’s one that popped into my e-mail box this morning that may interest you: Ex-GOP presidential nominee and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole will serve as the honorary campaign chairman for Republican Assembly District 15 candidate Judy Biviano Lloyd.

Whether or not this means Dole will actually set foot in District 15, which stretches from Walnut Creek to Livermore, is an open question that may or may not matter given Dole’s stature as a conservative statesman. (Click here to see a map of the district.)

Lloyd has come under some criticism for relying too heavily on endorsements of people who don’t live in the district. She also doesn’t live in the district yet, although she has put her Pleasanton house on the market and plans to move.

On the other hand, Lloyd is in a fierce, five-way race for the GOP nomination in June 2008 and clearly intends to use every political arrow in her quiver to distinguish herself from her male challengers: Scott Kamena, Robert Rao, San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson and Joe Rubay. And Lloyd’s ammunition now includes Dole, the man she worked for as a special assistant when he was the U.S. Senate Majority Leader.


Alameda County registrar messes up

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters mistakenly sent letters to 234,000 permanent absentee registered Republicans, Democrats and members of other parties advising them that they had failed to select a qualified political party for the Feb. 5 presidential primary election.

The county meant to send the letter to about 60,000 voters permanent absentee voters registered as “decline to state” but a staffer sent the wrong mailing list to the out-of-state printing company.

In this climate of suspicion about the integrity of voting equipment and systems, hundreds of voters have deluged the registrar’s office with angry phone calls and complaints.

But no voter has been stripped of his or her party registration, nor has there been any nefarious activities on the part of any county employee, said Alameda County spokesman Guy Ashley.

“It was a mistake that we regret and we are doing everything we can to clear up the confusion,” Ashley said.

Next week, the election department will send out a follow-up letter of explanation to those who received the letter in error and it will send the original letter to the correct list of “decline to state” voters.

Why did the letter go out in the first place?

It was intended to let “decline to state” voters know that they cannot vote in the presidential primary for the candidates of registered parties except for the Democrats and the American Independents. In contrast, the California Republican Party restricts voting in its primary to members of its party.

This means that a “decline to state” permanent absentee voter may request a nonpartisan, Democratic or American Independent ballot for the Feb. 5 presidential primary. He or she may not ask for a Republican ballot.

But the letter did not mention the GOP or spell out the Republican Party’s rules. It simply said, “We are sending you this notice because you did not choose a qualified party when you registered to vote.”

“People are confused and angry,” said Ryan Hatcher, executive director of the Alameda County Republican Party. “We don’t think there was any voter fraud here. It was an honest mistake. But people are vigilant these days about the voting system and a lot of Republicans think this is a move against them.”

The wording of the letter also bolsters critics of the GOP’s decision to exclude “decline to state” voters who say the party’s policy will push the growing numbers of independent voters into the arms of the Democratic Party.

Hatcher plans to meet with the county election staff this afternoon to discuss the wording in both the apology letter and the notice “decline to state” voters.

For a link to today’s story on the issue in the Oakland Tribune, click here.


Contra Costa Democrats to host debate party

Democrats will gather at A.J.’s Sports Pub in Concord on Oct. 30 to watch the televised Democratic presidential candidate debate.

MSNBC will air the debate, which will take place from 6-9 p.m. PST from Drexel University in Philadelphia. Click here for a link to the network’s debate page.

I’m planning to attend and cover the local reaction to the candidates’ views and performance. I’ll file a blog entry after the speech and a story for publication on Nov. 1. (It will go too late to meet our print deadlines Tuesday night.)

If it seems too early to think about the presidential options, keep in mind that even though California’s presidential primary election is on Feb. 5, its residents will start voting on their choices for the GOP and Democratic nominees on Jan. 7.

That’s when the counties will send out the ballots for permanent absentee voters, or those who choose to vote by mail every election. In some counties, half of its voters vote by mail and roughly half of those ballots are returned to the registrars’ offices in the first three weeks. The remaining ballots usually arrive in the final week as voters wait to see if any new information crops up that might influence their decisions.

A.J.’s Sports Pub is located at 4633 Clayton Road in Concord. Click here to link to Google maps.