Saturday, August 26, 2006



If someone-- like Charlie Cook or Larry Sabato-- held a gun to my head and demanded I pick one congressional district that is the model for nationalizing a campaign I'd... try to get out of answering. But if I heard the gun cock, I'd say CA-11. That's the very oddly shaped district in northern California currently represented by Dirty Dick Pombo. He is being powerfully challenged by a non-politician, an alternative energy engineer named Jerry McNerney. Jerry is the Blue America featured guest today at 11 AM (West Coast) at Firedoglake where he'll be taking questions for a couple of hours.

Due east of San Francisco and Oakland, the 11th encompasses most of San Joaquin County plus chunks of Alameda and Santa Clara and a bit of Contra Costa. Median income is $62,000, almost $15,000 above the state median. The district voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, but with more and more people from the Bay Area moving into the district and with Democratic registration growing, there is a strong feeling that this is the time for a change.

And then, of course, there's Dirty Dick Pombo-- not just your garden variety crooked Republican rubber stamp. Oh, he is crooked and he has been a dependable rubber stamp for every odious item on the Bush/Big Business agenda all right. But Pombo, as head of the House Resources Committee, has taken a leadership role in the worst environmental policies in the country's entire history. I mean this is the man who actually proposed selling off the national parks! Pombo, a reactionary through and through has a record that reads like a criminal rap-sheet and he's had his snout in every species of Republicrook corruption that the DeLay regime brought to the Congress.

Matt, a Democratic activist from the East Bay who started Say No To Pombo first helped me to understand how Jerry McNerney was the grassroots candidate and how the Inside-the-Beltway Rahm Emanuel crowd had tried to insert a corporate hack into the race when McNerney proved that Pombo was vulnerable. (Matt also showed me how to use ActBlue.) After McNerney and the California grassroots showed Emanuel that top-down DeLay-style boss politics don't go over well in California by kicking his sock puppet's ass in the primary, Jerry has pretty much been on his own against Pombo. Well, not exactly on his own. He's beloved by the California grassroots and generously adopted by the netroots. The DCCC ignores his race-- although the latest polling in CA-11 shows him ahead of Pombo-- and the only financing he gets comes from... us.

Although I've been writing about Jerry's campaign for over a year, this week was the first time I actually got to sit down and talk with him directly. Married to Mary for 29 years and father of 3 kids, Jerry has a Ph.D. in math and has been working in wind-energy technology since 1980. An expert in alternative energy, he believes the U.S. could produce at least 50% of our energy requirements from wind and solar energy. He's worked on both the giant wind energy projects in California, the one near Palm Springs and the one up in CA-11 near Livermore.

Although Jerry is as dismayed as most Americans by the direction the Bush Regime has taken America, he is very much the independent-minded, pragmatic progressive rather than an ideological partisan. A skeet shootin' gun owner he is not a fan of intrusive Big Government. He sees that Bush and his rubber stamp republican congress have fallen down on the job where government is needed-- like for national security and for strategic long-term planning-- and get it all wrong by butting in on the person lives of citizens. "They started an unnecessary war; they let Osama bin Laden escape; and now we're less secure than we were before the invasion of Iraq. With our dependence on foreign oil," he continued, "we're actually funding people who are potential terrorists. By subsidizing Big Oil instead of finding ways to reduce our dependence on foreign energy, Pombo [and the rubber stamp congress are] financing both sides of the war on terror."

Jerry feels that racism, greed and incompetence have been driving the Republican immigration and trade policies. Like Bill Clinton-- and unlike Bush-- he believes we should protect our borders and that it is the job of the president to make sure there are secure borders. "A good trade policy, fair trade will prevent shipping American jobs overseas and relieve pressure on our borders by establishing minimum labor and environmental standards overseas."

Because he's well-grounded and is rooted in a firm set of values, McNerney is immune to the Pombo/Rove hot button attacks. A woman's right to choice is a given, as is equality for all minorities, even whichever may be the Republicans' hated-minority-du-jour. The government has a job-- which Bush and the rubber stamp Congress hasn't been doing-- but law-abiding bothering people isn't it.

He sees an important message in Ned Lamont's startling victory over Bush/Lieberman, a message that goes way beyond the Connecticut borders. "Voters are looking for Truth and for someone who stands for something, for what Americans ought to be standing for. Our country doesn't stand for torture or for invading other countries without cause. Our country doesn't stand for corruption and for Halliburton and the United States is not about absolutely incompetent management of war."

If voters in CA-11 are hearing that same message, Jerry is a good bet to be at the swearing in in DC this January. Right now his biggest hurdle is name recognition. The DCCC is still holding back in it's support for Jerry-- although environmental groups, labor unions, the grass roots, the net roots, and the California Democratic Party are gung-ho. He's one of the top congressional candidates on MyDD/SwingState/Kos' Netroots Page and we haven't been doing badly on the Blue America ActBlue Page either, although we should bring it up a bit. In fact as a little incentive-- knowing that Jerry is a big jazz fan-- the first 25 contributors today get a Wynton Marsalis MOVADA PM COLLECTION cd. (If you want to give and don't want the CD, add .01 to your donation.)


Take a look at how the Defenders of Wildlife feel about Dirty Dick:


At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a couple dozen races across the country where I've seen non-politicians standing up and talking commonsense so thoroughly that the public immediately warms to their message.

McNerney is one, then there's Gary Trauner in Wyoming, Jon Tester in Montana, Ron Klein in Florida, Katz, Space and Wultsin in Ohio, of course, Lamont (CT) and Rowley (MN), Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, Larry Kissell in North Carolina, Judy Feder in Virginia and several others scattered around the country whose names escape me this second.

Most of these don't have deep political ties in DC and run with little support at the top. All display a solid capacity to avoid the script-talk, to listen to constituents and respond to what they're hearing. Because of them, I'm finding this cycle the most exciting I've seen since 1992.

I wish them all well, but as a lifelong advocate of alternate energy approaches, Jerry remains one of my top faves, and I'm glad to see you touting his stuff (Keep up the good fight!)


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