Career: Harmer is an attorney who first served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Since then, he has been a fellow at the Pacific Legal Foundation and Heritage Foundation. He has had a book on education reform published by the Cato Institute. All are politically conservative non-profits. In November, Harmer lost a race for Congress against former Democratic Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, in the heavily Democratic 10th Congressional District. He is 47 years old.
Education: He graduated from law school at Brigham Young University.
Family: Harmer and his wife Elayne live in San Ramon. They have four young children — two sons and two daughters.
Key quote: "We are not being compensated for our services as the world's policeman."
Here is an edited version of our interview with Harmer:
On health care: "Most people think a fix for health care needs to be right, fast and cheap, but we probably have to pick two of these. We must repeal Obama Care, but I can't defend the status quo. We should take an incremental approach. A piece at a time, we must fix what we can. Here are a few things we can fix: Create a bigger market for health insurance by allowing people to purchase from out-of-state companies; allow individuals to deduct health expenses; reform the tort system — limit 'jackpot justice … if you give people a defined contribution instead of a defined benefit, you'll drive down utilization.'"
On immigration: "Amnesty is not a solution. First we need to secure the border. If (you do that), the problem diminishes through attrition. The root of the problem is that democracy is in retreat in the Western Hemisphere. The drug war is out of control. (People fleeing to the U.S. creates) this explosion in social services. As (former British Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher noted: 'Eventually you run out of other people's money.'"
On the federal deficit: "We're spending $3.8 trillion a year and have an annual deficit of $1.4 trillion. We have $12.7 trillion in total national debt — $40,000 for every American. That will double in 10 years. Here are some things that will help: Stop the stimulus spending — two thirds hasn't been spent … repeal the authorization. Stop TARP (Trouble Asset Relief Program). Entitlements like Social Security are driving the deficit. Social Security should be indexed to the Consumer Price Index, not wages, and the increases to above average beneficiaries should be limited."
On earmarks: (These are special appropriations hidden inside bills on other issues.) "I like the approach of Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake. He introduces amendments to bills to strip them of earmarks."
On the war on terror: "Victory will be achieved when Americans can travel without fear beyond that of any native. (But this is a long and expensive endeavor.) "We are not being compensated for our services as the world's policeman. Why are we subsidizing the defense of Western Europe?"
On water and recharge: "There's more water promised than we can deliver, both to people and the environment. The federal government has a role in storage and recharge projects."
On learning from mistakes: "The toughest decision I've had is to run (for Congress again. He lost to John Garamendi in a neighboring district.) It means turning my wife into a single mom. But Elayne urged me to serve. I feel the mission is not complete."
Our take: Harmer is a charming, even glib interviewee, well studied on the issues. That's not surprising since he's had the most government and political experience of all the candidates. His father, John Harmer, was Lt. Governor under Ronald Reagan. So he shouldn't claim to be a political outsider. Because the boundary line lies on the other side of San Ramon, he is not a resident of the 10th Congressional district. This bothers some, but candidates are not required to live in a congressional district, only within the states they represent.
Editor's note: Based largely on reader sentiment, the News-Sentinel editorial board has decided to forego candidate endorsements for the June primary. Instead, as something of a pilot project, we are presenting an Opinion Page series on candidates for the 11th Congressional District. Each segment includes brief background information, responses to a set of questions, and our quick assessment of each candidate. The segments are running in alphabetical order.