In California’s 11th Congressional District, an area that encompasses several key northern counties, incumbent Jerry McNerney, a Democrat, faces a strong Republican challenger in David Harmer. The race is close because McNerney won a close battle in 2008, and he’s facing an anti-incumbency mood in 2010.
Candidates for California’s 11th Congressional District (two-year term)
(Encompasses portions of San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties and includes the cities of Lodi, Stockton, Brentwood and Tracy. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Jerry McNerney (incumbent)
Political experience: Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, McNerney, who had no prior political experience at the time, unseated Republican incumbent Richard Pombo. McNerney, who had been working in the private sector, credits his son Michael for encouraging him to run for Congress. He was re-elected to the 11th District in 2008.
According to the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, McNerney sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee and two of its subcommittees: Communication, Technology and the Internet and Energy and Environment. McNerney also sits on the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs and its Subcommittee on Health.
Professional experience: McNerney served as engineering consultant for Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. Relocating to California in 1990, McNerney took a position as a senior engineer with U.S. Windpower, a developer of wind-powered electricity. In 2003, McNerney became CEO of Hawt Power, his Pleasanton-based start-up company that manufactured wind turbines.
Key issues: McNerney’s main focus in Congress has been on clean and renewable energy sources. He sponsored H.R. 1730 (Vehicles for the Future Act) and H.R. 1775 (Grants for Renewable Energy Education for the Nation Act). Also concerned with veteran issues, McNerney sponsored H.R. 5145 (Assuring Quality Care for Veterans Act) and H.R. 1546 (Caring for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2009).
Endorsements: According to McNerney’s website, he is endorsed by several Northern California newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee and the Stockton Record. Organizations that support him include the Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC and the Alameda Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Even with his clean-energy stance, McNerney is not guaranteed re-election in 2010, especially with strong GOP opposition. McNerney’s “yes” vote on the controversial Health Care Reform Bill (H.R. 3590) is in line, however, with the thinking of many California voters. According to a June telephone survey conducted by the Field Research Corporation, 52 percent of California voters support H.R. 3590. Based on these numbers, McNerney could do well in November.
Candidate: David Harmer
Political experience: The son of former California State Senator and Lt. Governor John Harmer, attorney David Harmer served as legal counsel for one subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. According to The Sacramento Bee, Harmer ran for the House of Representatives in CA-10 during a special 2009 run-off election, losing to John Garamandi.
Professional experience: Harmer graduated from Brigham Young University and received a fellowship with the College of Public Interest Law at Pacific Legal Foundation. Harmer was a resident fellow at the Heritage Foundation and authored School Choice, an analysis on school reform published by the Cato Institute.
Key issues: According to KeyHouseRaces.com, a website supporting conservatives in 2010, Harmer has a platform built on reducing taxes, cutting wasteful government spending and stimulating the growth of new business. Harmer wants to introduce reforms to Obama’s health care initiatives and offer more health care choices.
KeyHouseRaces.com says Harmer takes a strong stand on immigration, advocating the immediate deportation of illegal aliens. A supporter of Arizona’s immigration legislation, Harmer also wants to see the completion of a fence on the southern California border.
Endorsements: Harmer’s notable endorsements, according to his website, include 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and representatives Jeff Flake (AZ-6), Wally Herger (CA-6) and Buck McKeon (CA-25).
Chances of unseating Jerry McNerney: Because California’s 11th Congressional District is classified as R+1, there is almost an even number of registered Republican and Democratic voters, turning the battle for CA-11 into a real horse race.
According to the Contra Costa Times, Harmer was recently named one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns.” The NRCC gives this distinction to Republican candidates who are rising to the top of the party.
Harmer is pushing for Congress to control spending and stabilize the economy, but he’s not an advocate of raising taxes. In reference to health care, Harmer, on his official website, is openly opposed to government-controlled health care.
Key Differences between Jerry McNerney and David Harmer
Health care reform: McNerney remains a strong supporter of the new health care legislation, but Harmer advocates less government control and more health care choices for constituents.
Energy and the ecology: With his professional background, McNerney is a strong backer of clean energy and using sustainable resources, especially wind power. Harmer doesn’t include these topics in his platform.
The economy: In the “Issues” section of his website, Harmer criticizes deficit-spending, promising to cut waste and help balance the budget. When talking about the economy, McNerney focuses on small-business creation, promoting tax incentives and credits for small-business owners. McNerney also wants to use government funds to create more green jobs.
Immigration: McNerney takes a softer approach on illegal immigration than Harmer. He says that while the country is made strong through legal immigration, the federal system is broken and needs increased funding for border patrol, surveillance and technology. Harmer, who supports Arizona’s SB 1070, is pushing for a fence on the southern border with Mexico. He also advocates deporting illegal immigrants immediately.
California’s 11th U.S. Congressional District
Location: California’s 11th District sits just east of the Bay Area. Encompassing portions of San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, the 11th District includes the cities of Lodi, Stockton, Brentwood and Tracy. San Jose is located just outside the 11th District’s boundaries.
2008 results: McNerney kept his congressional seat, defeating Republican challenger Dean Andal 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent. Write-in candidate David Christensen, of the American Independent Party, received 12 votes.
Demographics: According to research maps assembled by the Humboldt State University Library, the 639,000 residents of the 11th U.S. Congressional District fall into the following groups: 64.1 percent white, 19.7 percent Hispanic, 8.7 percent Asian and 3.4 percent African-American.
The Cook Partisan Voting Index of registered voters gives CA-11 an R+1 rating, indicating a slight Republican lean in this district.