Harmer ready to take on McNerney

June 9, 2010

Campaign veteran David Harmer outpaced Brad Goerhing and two other Republican challengers in the 11th Congressional District primary on Tuesday, June 6, winning the right to take on incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney as the GOP representative in November’s general election.

The morning after polls closed on a lightly traveled Election Day, Harmer (36.4 percent of the vote) emerged victorious ahead of San Joaquin County farmer and wine-grape grower Goehring (27.8 percent) in a race that has been tightly contested for months.

Harmer campaign spokesman Tim Clark credited the candidate’s hard work and a message of fiscal conservatism that resonated with voters.

“He is exactly what Americans are looking for in Congress nowadays,” Clark said the day after Harmer’s victory.

Clark also said that Harmer’s campaign reached out to voters in every corner of the district.

“We didn’t concede anything to any of the candidates,” he said, “and we went heavy all over the district, including San Joaquin (County).”

Goehring, the lone candidate to hail from the San Joaquin County portion of the 11th District, managed a big win in his home county, leading Harmer there 39.7 to 27.3 percent.

But Harmer dominated in the East Bay regions of the sprawling district.

In Alameda County, Harmer cleaned up 48.1 percent of the vote to Goehring’s 9.9 percent. The story was the same in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties, where Harmer’s margin over Goehring stood at 39 and 28.5 points, respectively.

The other two Republicans in the primary race, Tony Amador and Elizabeth Emken, trailed far behind the two frontrunners from the time precincts began reporting, and while they consistently outperformed Goehring in the East Bay, they finished far behind both him and Harmer.

Amador netted 19.4 percent of the overall district vote, while Emken received 16.4 percent.

Harmer is now poised to run against McNerney, a two-term Democrat from Pleasanton, in the fall.

This is Harmer’s third tilt at a congressional seat, and his second campaign in two years. He first ran in 1996 in Utah to represent that state in the House of Representatives, and he also mounted an unsuccessful bid in 2009 in California’s 10th District.

Clark said that, in this contest, Harmer offers voters in a congressional district evenly split between registered Republicans and Democrats a distinct choice between his brand of fiscal conservatism and profligate spending.

“I think there’s a lot of Democrats and a whole lot of decline-to-state voters who are just as upset at what’s taking place in (Washington) D.C. as Republicans are,” he said. “I think David’s message of fiscal responsibility … is exactly what the large majority of voters in this district want to see happen.”

“In the last four years,” Clark added, “there hasn’t been a spending bill that (McNerney) didn’t like.”

While in office, McNerney voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a multibillion-dollar effort passed in 2008 intended to stabilize then-toppling financial institutions, commonly referred to as a “bailout” of banks. April reports from the U.S. Treasury pegged the cost of T.A.R.P. at $89 billion, after initial estimates of its cost hovered at $350 billion.

Proponents of the measure contend it was a necessary move to save the country’s economy in light of the failure of once-powerful financial houses, such as Lehman Bros. Detractors have said it rewarded poor decisions, put taxpayers on the hook for the collapse of private businesses and did nothing to curb the problems that led to the bank failures in the first place.

“(Harmer) has opposed the bailouts from the beginning,” Clark said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to link Harmer to the program he has criticized. A press release today charged that Harmer received $160,000 in severance and bonuses from former employer Washington Mutual, after WaMu was acquired by T.A.R.P. recipient JPMorgan Chase.

Clark countered that the charge was an “old issue” that had already been discussed in the GOP primary race. He also said that JPMorgan — which has repaid its $25 billion T.A.R.P. debt — is one of the “healthiest” financial institutions around.

“The charge that (Harmer) somehow benefited from the bailout is bogus,” he said.

McNerney, who has tried to position himself as a centrist candidate, also launched his campaign for the Nov. 2 election today.

“I’m going to keep working hard as an independent voice for our area,” he said in a statement. “We need to focus on our top priorities, and that’s why I’m committed to getting the economy going again, supporting our veterans and men and women in uniform, and improving the future for all Americans.”

McNerney stated his priorities were helping and caring for military veterans, reforming Wall Street and finding “fiscally responsible” solutions to creating jobs.

He also touted his efforts to bring millions of dollars to the 11th District in the form of earmarks for projects ranging from transportation to after-school tutoring, like Give Every Child a Chance.

A few of McNerney’s most recent federal funding requests for the Tracy area include $400,000 for gang prevention, $950,000 to buy cameras for “high-traffic” areas to help prevent crime, $1 million to continue studying an Interstate 205 interchange at Lammers Road and $1 million for an “above-grade crossing” of the Mococo rail line by MacArthur Drive to ease traffic congestion.

Clark has said Harmer would take a “fiscally conservative” approach to earmarks.

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