Republicans face what seems to be a difficult choice in deciding who is best-equipped to battle incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney in the 11th Congressional District race this year.
Four Republicans remain in the race, and their views are strikingly similar. Therefore, candidates are trying to persuade voters to base their votes on who they say is best able to defeat McNerney in November and who will be the most effective in bringing their conservative values to Congress.
McNerney is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Although Election Day is June 8, voters have been allowed to mail in their ballots since May 9.The Republican field includes Brad Goehring, a Clements rancher and lifelong resident; Tony Amador, retired U.S. Marshal who lived in the Elk Grove area until moving to Lodi in August, a month before he announced his candidacy; and two San Ramon Valley residents — Elizabeth Emken, of Danville, and David Harmer, of San Ramon. However, Harmer lives two miles outside the 11th District, which he describes as a quirk in the 2002 reapportionment maps.
It's the first try at public office for three of the candidates, Amador, Emken and Goehring. Harmer ran for Congress twice before — last November, when he lost to Democrat John Garamendi in a special election in the neighboring 10th District, and in 1996, when he lost a congressional race in Utah.
All four candidates proclaim themselves arch-conservatives who have what it takes to defeat McNerney in November. They support trimming the federal budget, securing the borders to keep illegal immigrants from moving to the United States, repealing the newly adopted health care plan and stopping payments on the stimulus plan.
So candidates and their supporters have focused on other issues to say why they should be nominated. Among them:
- Although it is perfectly legal for members of Congress to live outside their district, is it the right thing to do? Harmer lives two miles outside the 11th District, while Amador moved from the Elk Grove area to Lodi in August, a month before declaring his candidacy.
- Goehring got some heat for saying on Facebook last week, "If I could issue hunting permits, I would officially declare today opening day for liberals. The season would extend through Nov. 2 and have no limits on how many taken as we desperately need to 'thin' the herd."
Goehring spokesman Nick Rappley said that Goehring's Facebook post was merely a metaphor, though Goehring wouldn't apologize about getting as many liberals as possible removed from office.
- Emken criticized Harmer for having one of his supporters help organize an April 5 candidates' forum at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.
Here are the candidates' position about residency in the district:
- Amador: While he respects the obligation to live in the district in which you run, he plans to remain a Lodi resident whether he wins or loses in June. There is no "magic" amount of time one should live in the district in order to run. Those who have statewide identity, such as Garamendi or Rep. Tom McClintock, can even opt to live outside the district.
- Harmer: "From personal experience, I found it doesn't matter. My hometown of San Ramon is split. John Garamendi didn't live in the 10th district, but nobody ever, ever came up to me and said, 'I was going to vote for Garamendi, and then I learned he lived in Walnut Grove, so I'm voting for you.' I wasn't running against Garamendi because he lived outside the district. I was running against him because he was a rubber stamp for the Obama agenda."
- Goehring, through spokesman Rappley: "(Amador's) a carpetbagger, basically. He left the Sacramento area."
- Emken: Says members of Congress have a better chance of representing the district if they actually live in the district.
Immigration is another hot topic. While it has been a long-standing issue, it took a new twist in April when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill requiring law enforcement to check someone's immigration status if they have reason to believe that the person is in the United States illegally.
While Republican candidates in the 11th District agree with the sentiment, they're not in full agreement with what California or Congress should do about it.
- Emken says Brewer's action should actually be taken up by Congress because it's a federal matter involving multiple states.
- Harmer and Amador said that Congress doesn't need to enact Arizona's new law — the federal government simply needs to enforce laws already on the books.
"It's more than an immigration issue, it's a national security issue," Amador said. "We have the right as a sovereign nation to secure our borders. If it's necessary, we should send troops."
Harmer said he would appropriate money to construct fences along the Mexican border. Currently, only the areas around San Diego and El Paso, Texas, have fencing.
- Goehring, through Rappley, said that the federal government needs to identify people who are in the country illegally. As for Arizona's law, "They should definitely take it into consideration."
All four Republican candidates say that the new Arizona law doesn't promote racial profiling — in fact, it prohibits racial profiling.
Candidates at a glanceTony Amador
Education: McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, 1988.
Career: U.S. Marshal for seven years, retiring in July 2009; previously Los Angeles police officer, chaired Youthful Offender Parole Board and was director of the California Youth Authority. Member, California Public Employment Relations Board.
Family: Wife, Evilia; four grown daughters, Tracy, Theresa, Vanessa-Leigh, Antoinette; 13 grandchildren.
Education: UCLA, economics and political science degrees, 1984.
Career: Formerly at IBM Corp. and vice president for government relations at Autism Speaks. She resigned when she decided to run for Congress.
Family: Husband, Craig Swartz; son, Alex, 17; daughters, Hayleigh, 14, and Emmaleigh, 10.
Education: Business administration major, California State University, Chico. Couple of classes short of a degree.
Career: Owns and operates Goehring Vineyards.
Family: Wife, Kristin; daughters, Lexus, 18, Bryson, 8, and Brielle, 6.
Education: Brigham Young University law school, B.A., J.D.
Career: Attorney for subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee; attorney at O'Melveny & Myers.
Family: Wife, Elayne; children, Madison, 14, Jonas, 12, Ariel, 11, Benjamin, 8.