The East Contra Costa Tea Party will host a candidate forum today featuring David Harmer, a Republican congressional candidate and San Ramon-based lawyer challenging Democrat Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton for the Congressional 11th.
Political pundits are saying the 11th Congressional District —which includes towns from Lodi to San Ramon — is a vulnerable Democratic seat and one that, if won by Harmer on Nov. 2, could help Republicans take back Congress and, perhaps, the White House.
Can a Republican with Tea Party backing win the hearts and minds of Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Joaquin county voters?
In short, the answer is yes, say folks from Danville to Washington, D.C.
"I'm not happy with the direction we're going in," Danville councilwoman and former Danville mayor Candace Andersen recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Jerry McNerney is a wonderful person, but I don't like his politics."
Many Harmer supporters argue that bigger government, increased taxes and lockstep democratic politics threaten the future of the country—all sentiments that, while traditionally Republican, will likely be well-received at the East Contra Costa Tea Party forum to be held tonight, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Brentwood Veterans Memorial Hall on 757 First St., in Brentwood.
"We love our country, but we no longer love our government," Harmer wrote in a Memorial Day letter to his supporters this year. "We see how it squanders our hard-earned tax dollars, how it neglects its core duties while intruding ever more deeply into matters far outside its constitutional authority, and we fear that it shows dangerous signs of outgrowing the consent of the governed."
While invoking the aura of Ronald Reagan—with whom Harmer's father served as Lt. Governor of California—he often uses religious and revolutionary language to describe his candidacy.
For example, regarding the recent healthcare bill signed into law by President Obama, Harmer reportedly said last week at a rally in Lodi: "Pour salt on it, and curse it in God's holy name!"
He told the Mormon Times that he's running for office because he was prompted by the Spirit, the report read. He said his family is currently studying Captain Moroni and, like Captain Moroni, American Mormons must hoist the Title of Liberty.
"Freedom is a pre-condition of everything else God has in his plan," he told the Times.
On the environment, Harmer reportedly questions the validity of global warming: "Nowhere [in the Constitution] will you see the power to regulate carbon dioxide, what we all exhale," he reportedly said. He went on to say that he did not "believe" in the notion of global warming, the report read.
At a Tax Day Tea Party rally in Pleasanton this year, Harmer greeted the crowd as "fellow counter revolutionaries."
Indeed, Harmer has achieved a "perfect" rating from the Pleasanton Tea Party.
That kind of talk might work well in Utah and even resonate with many in California's Congressional 11th, but only time will tell if it'll sway enough Independents to push Harmer over the top. The numbers bode well for Harmer. Voters are evenly split between republicans and democrats in the Congressional 11th, with 39 percent each, according to the California secretary of state. More than 18,000 additional Republicans voted in the Republican primary this year.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party has tapped Harmer as one of the nation's "young guns" and the only one in California with serious political traction, in the only race in California where an ultra Conservative has the chance to unseat a two-term Democrat and help win back Congress for the Republicans.
Unseating a Congressional 11th district incumbent happened in 2006 when McNerny, a relative political unknown, beat seven-term Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy for the job and cruised to victory again in 2008.
Now, pundits around the East Bay are saying it can happen again—only the script is flipped.
Instead of the pro-environmental, anti-incumbent surge that swept McNerny to Washington in 2006, politicians and TV hosts such as Glenn Beck decry "deficit spending," big bailouts and threats to constitutional sovereignty to the cheers of throngs of flag-wearing "patriots" excitedly discussing sovereignty and the Second Amendment.
Speaking of guns, the Tracy Republican Women last Saturday held a meet-up event for Harmer at the Manteca Sportsman Club, where guns, ammo and grilled burgers were included in the price of admission.
Those supporters, to the extent they exist in the district, have been mobilized, resurrecting the district's Republican base, Harmer campaign watchers argue.
McNerny supports bigger government and increased taxes, Harmer argues. Even worse, he votes in lockstep with Uber Democrat Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party.
But McNerny has recently said he would support extending the Bush tax cuts. He said he's not a partisan hack and that he's a moderate.
But he voted for the stimulus, health care reform and Wall Street regulations–three bills that Republicans have attacked as signs of Democrats' increasing spending, the Chronicle reported, and something Harmer described as "fiscal child abuse" because a growing deficit would have to be paid off by future generations.
Democrats and many economists, on the other hand, argue that national spending cannot be compared to household economics–that a Reagan/Bush deficit was whittled down to zero in a few short years under the Clinton Administration, leaving the Bush W. administration with a surplus. In serious economic recessions, they argue, only government—as during the Great Depression—can put millions of Americans back to work.
Harmer is undoubtedly a man with a mission. Months after he lost to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, in last year's special election in the 10th Congressional District, Harmer didn't even break stride, running for and winning the nomination for the 11th.
In spite of Harmer's political pedigree and his arguable status as an outsider, his tenacity could be the edge needed to take back the 11th for Republicans, pundits say.
"One thing is certain: The once 'outsider' Jerry McNerney has come full circle and is now the endangered incumbent willing to flip on issues just to save his own skin," Harmer spokesman Tim Clark reportedly said.
Note: Other candidates scheduled to appear at the East Contra Costa Tea Party forum to be held tonight include John Dennis, who is challenging Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Gary Clift, challenger to Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Rick Tubbs, challenger to Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez. Also expected to attend is Independent Chris Pareja, who is running as a write-in challenger to Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont. Tea Party-backed candidates for local offices are also expected to attend.
Coming soon: Profile: David Harmer. An interview and answers to questions, in Harmer's own words. The Congressional 11th includes the cities of Danville, San Ramon and Pleasanton.