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Miller administers DeSaulnier’s ceremonial oath

Sometimes it’s not just the oath you take, but who administers it.

Mark DeSaulnierFreshman Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, officially was sworn into office Jan. 6 by Speaker John Boehner. But he was administered a ceremonial oath Tuesday night by his predecessor, former Rep. George Miller, in the Concord City Council chambers in front of constituents and local officials.

“It means the world to me to have a special ceremony in Concord where I raised my two sons, opened a small business, and served as a local elected official and as mayor,” DeSaulnier said in a statement issued afterward. “To be here surrounded by constituents and colleagues, and for my mentor George Miller to administer the oath of office, is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Miller, who retired after 40 years in Congress, said it was an honor to administer the oath, just as it was a privilege serving the district for so long.

“This is a great district marked with both beauty and diversity. I now have the honor of passing the torch to an accomplished public servant, a leader, and a longtime friend,” Miller said in DeSaulnier’s release.

Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder and voter registrar Steve Weir served as master of ceremonies at Tuesday night’s event, and Concord Mayor Tim Grayson offered opening remarks. Concord Boy Scout Troop 465, led by Mike Roark, served as color guard and Jason Warrenburg, a Los Medanos Community College student, sang the National Anthem.

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NRCC also to make robocalls against McNerney

Hot on the heels of news that the National Republican Congressional Committee is launching TV ads – albeit a very small buy – against Rep. Jerry McNerney, the NRCC today said that it’s also launching automated calls to 11th Congressional District constituents later this week.

Here’s the phone-call script:

Hello. I’m calling from the National Republican Congressional Committee about your Congressman Jerry McNerney’s plan for Medicare. McNerney and President Obama’s plan threatens to deny treatment for seniors in Medicare by allowing bureaucrats to interfere with their doctors. Worse, McNerney’s budget plan lets Medicare go bankrupt – that’d mean big cuts to benefits. Call Congressman McNerney at 202-225-1947 and tell him to stop endangering Medicare. Paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. 202-479-7000.

NRCC spokesman Tyler Houlton said similar calls are being made in about a dozen Democratic House districts nationwide.

“While the Republican plan preserves and protects Medicare for future generations, Nancy Pelosi and Jerry McNerney are hell-bent on cutting Medicare benefits for seniors and raising taxes on Californians,” he said. “It’s become crystal clear that Jerry McNerney and House Democrats are committed to endangering healthcare for our senior citizens.”

For some debunking of this, see the piece I wrote last week about the TV ad.

When first discussing the TV ad buy last week, Houlton couldn’t name a dollar figure; I later heard it’s only $4,500, a miniscule buy of time on Fox News made even smaller by splitting it between the Sacramento and Tri-Valley markets. Today, I asked Houlton how much the automated calls are costing – though I know such calls are much cheaper than TV air time – and how they’re being targeted. I wanted to get an idea of whether the NRCC is really putting its money where its mouth is to win hearts and minds with these tactics, or rather just preaching to the already-converted while seeking some headlines.

“I know the calls are going to thousands of McNerney’s constituents,” Houlton replied via e-mail. “I don’t have the buy information for you but I do know the calls are aimed at highlighting McNerney’s record in Congress.”

McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh said today that “this misleading attack is just a smoke and mirrors attempt by republicans to distract from their own plan to end Medicare as we know it.”

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GOP to launch TV ad against McNerney Friday

The National Republican Congressional Committee will launch a three-week ad buy this Friday against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, blasting his purported support of healthcare budgeting that the GOP says will let Medicare “go bankrupt.”

It’s clearly an effort to push back against criticisms leveled in recent weeks against House Republicans, whose budget plan calls for changing Medicare from a government-run system into a private subsidy or voucher system in which senior citizens would buy private health insurance.

Here’s the script:

Who do you trust with personal health care decisions? Your own doctor.

But if Jerry McNerney gets his way, that could change.

McNerney and President Obama’s Medicare plan empowers bureaucrats to interfere with doctors, risking seniors’ access to treatment.

Now, Obama’s budget plan lets Medicare go bankrupt: that’d mean big cuts to benefits.

Tell McNerney to stop bankrupting Medicare.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

NRCC spokesman Tyler Houlton said McNerney’s 11th Congressional District is the only one in which such an ad is being launched; it’ll air in the San Francisco and Sacramento markets, but Houlton said he didn’t have information on the cost.

“While the Republican plan preserves and protects Medicare for future generations, the Democrats’ plan will lead to severe cuts in benefits for seniors and drastic tax increases in the coming years.” Houlton said. “Democrats already gutted $500 billion from Medicare when they passed the trillion dollar government takeover of healthcare, and they won’t hesitate to do it again.”

But the ad’s claims seem shaky. FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan project of Annenburg Public Policy Center, last week debunked the claim that President Obama’s budget proposal commits seniors to bureaucratically rationed health care: The new health care law states that the advisory board to which Republicans have referred “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care” and is to consist primarily of doctors, economists and other outside experts, not Washington bureaucrats.

FactCheck.org also refuted the claim that healthcare reforms recently enacted won’t improve Medicare’s finances: It does, though experts worry some cost controls won’t be fully implemented. Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget keeps in place some of those same cost controls.

And as for the Medicare-is-going-bankrupt claim, FactCheck.org tackled that one last month. Only Medicare Part A – covering inpatient hospital services and hospice care – is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to be exhausted in 2020 (or in 2029, according to the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees), just as it was projected to be in 1972 and again in 1994.

“Politicians keep finding ways to postpone any insolvency,” FactCheck.org wrote. “We don’t mean to downplay Medicare’s financial challenges, but the whole system isn’t going ‘bankrupt,’ as Ryan’s claim suggests.”

McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh, to whom I provided the script this evening, called it “one more misleading and baseless attack from Washington Republicans who are themselves currently trying to end Medicare for seniors and keep tax loopholes open for huge corporations that ship American jobs overseas.”

UPDATE @ 1:02 P.M. SATURDAY: Much ado about almost nothing? A credible source tells me the NRCC is spending $4,500 on the ad campaign being broadcast on Fox News from May 20 to June 2; the total includes $1,300 for the buy in the Sacramento area and $3,200 in the Tri Valley area cable.

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Jerry McNerney recovering from wrist surgery

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is recovering from voluntary surgery he underwent this past Friday to repair a wrist tendon.

“It’s not slowing him down, although you can imagine what it’s like to be an elected official who can’t shake hands with his right hand,” spokeswoman Sarah Hersh said today.

Or to be an elected official who looks like he’s constantly pointing at something. Here are some photos from McNerney’s visit earlier today to DaVita Inc.’s Pleasanton Dialysis Center, where he met with patients and caregivers to learn about dialysis and kidney care needs for local residents, including the unique needs of veterans.

Rep.McNerney, Walter Cunha

Dr. Oliver, Rep. McNerney, Walhid Latifi

“As a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, it is my top priority to make sure our veterans have access to quality care,” McNerney said in a news release.

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McNerney’s lead continues to widen

The latest ballot-tallying updates from the most populous part of the 11th Congressional District shows incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, again has widened his lead over Republican challenger David Harmer.

Tuesday’s updates from the registrars of voters in San Joaquin County – which has the lion’s share of the four-county district’s registered voters – and Santa Clara County showed Harmer lost ground in the former and made none in the latter, leaving him 2,475 votes behind McNerney – just over 1 percent of the 237,808 ballots counted so far.

McNerney declared victory Nov. 10, when he was up by 1,681 votes or about seven-tenths of a percent; Harmer has yet to concede, and recently attended the GOP’s freshman orientation on Capitol Hill.

McNerney — now seeking a third term in the House of Representatives — leads Harmer — an attorney from San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley area — in Alameda County by about 15.5 percentage points and in Santa Clara County by 8.2 points.

Harmer leads McNerney by 0.15 of a point in Contra Costa County and by 3.6 points in San Joaquin County; that latter number decreased from a 4.3 percentage-point lead as of Nov. 10.

San Joaquin County is also where American Independent nominee David Christensen fared best, with almost 7.1 percent of the votes cast; districtwide, he took about 5.2 percent.

UPDATE @ 2:35 P.M.: The Associated Press has called the race for McNerney. I’ve still not heard back from Harmer’s people.

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CD11: McNerney declares victory, Harmer fights on

Incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, declared victory Wednesday evening in his race to retain his 11th Congressional District seat, saying the remaining ballots couldn’t possibly put Republican challenger David Harmer back on top.

“With the vast majority of votes tallied, the results are clear. Congressman McNerney now has an insurmountable lead,” McNerney campaign manager Doug Greven said in a news release.

Not so fast, cautioned Harmer.

“On Election Night, when I led by thousands of votes, and supporters were congratulating me and calling me Congressman, I cautioned that it was too early to claim victory. Many votes remained to be counted,” he said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday evening. “That is still the case tonight. Just as it would have been premature to claim victory then, it would be premature to concede defeat now.

“As I said the day after the election, my objective is to ensure that every legitimate vote is accurately counted. Once that has been done, I will offer a statement about the results.”

As of Wednesday evening, McNerney led Harmer by 1,681 votes, or about seven-tenths of a percent of the almost 231,000 ballots counted. A previous update, on Tuesday night, had shown McNerney up by 2,269 votes, but Contra Costa, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties posted updates Wednesday.

Registrars in the four counties within the district continue to tally votes, and don’t expect to certify their final counts until at least Nov. 24.

McNerney — now seeking a third term in the House of Representatives — leads Harmer — an attorney from San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley area — in Alameda County by about 15.5 percentage points and in Santa Clara County by 8.2 points.

Harmer leads McNerney by about one-fifth of a point in Contra Costa County and by 4.3 points in San Joaquin County, the latter of which includes the largest chunk of the 11th District. San Joaquin County is also where American Independent nominee David Christensen fared best, with almost 7.1 percent of the votes cast; districtwide, he took about 5.1 percent.

McNerney’s campaign argued Wednesday that based on the trends so far, Harmer could close the gap by fewer than 300 votes from the 11,000 remaining provisional and vote-by-mail ballots in San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, while McNerney could expect to pick up more votes than Harmer from among about 700 still-uncounted ballots in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.