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David Harmer, Republican for Congress

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Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2010 12:00 am

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.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • posted at 12:21 pm on Fri, May 14, 2010.


    McNumbskull? I like that. It's not what we call him, but again, what we call him is not very polite anyway.You've probably voted for him all along, unless you're new to this district.ObamaCare is incremental only if you think we need a single payer system. Otherwise, it's rather a sledgehammer approach to health care access, and destructive to research and development and cutting-edge technology. And taxing unemployed people for it with VAT taxes, cap and trade taxes, etc., when they're already struggling to hang onto their homes doesn't bode well for the economy, either.I agree Republicans have spent too much in the past, but the way Dems accelerated spending in just the past year makes them look like misers.If only they really *were* misers, we wouldn't be in this mess. The Dems should be misers as well, but they've never met a government expenditure they didn't like (except, as you point out, military spending).

  • posted at 5:25 pm on Thu, May 13, 2010.


    Maybe McNumskull will best fit my tastes. I haven't given him an honest appraisal yet.Republicans aren't known for ANY cost-cutting, let alone military. I haven't seen an honest-to-god fiscal conservative in 20 years. Popular phrase, but not a popular practice. Republicans are now only social conservatives, which only serves to expand government and special interest. I miss Newt Gingrich.SEC still hasn't pressed any charges for the Wall Street collapse and there's been no actual reform to prevent the criminal act that brought this recession on. I look at that as a big failure for mcnerny which is why I'm honestly reviewing all the candidates for his job. I can't help it if they're all lousy. Which is why, in case you missed the other few times I've said so, I'm favoring Emken.Obamacare does need a lot of work. But in all honesty, we need to yank America out of the 19th century with regard to views on medicine. I actually agree with Harmer that we'll probably need an incremental approach. Obamacare is a stage in the incremental process and the old system needed change, so a repeal is stupidity of the highest order.

  • posted at 9:52 am on Thu, May 13, 2010.


    Oops, excuse the typo. ...an R

  • posted at 9:48 am on Thu, May 13, 2010.


    Actually, I don't think anyone but McNerney would fit your tastes. Republicans aren't known for defense cutting (especially with two wars going on), and ObamaCare certainly needs adjustments. Most of what you say sounds like it could have come from DailyKos, so I don't think anyone with a R by his/her name would pass muster with you.However, it would be nice to see more profiles here, including so-called "third parties". I have family members who are registered Libertarians, and if anyone's on the ticket for the 11th Congressional District, they'd want to hear about him/her.One thing all the voters in my family agree on, though, is that McNerney needs to go. We call him McNum... well, never mind - it's not very polite to use in this blog.

  • posted at 8:36 am on Thu, May 13, 2010.


    I'm reviewing all of them. If someone else was being reviewed or running, I'd be slamming them.Harmer might be the one with widespread appeal enough to beat McNerny, but if he isn't offering anything better than an R after his title rather than a D, I'm not impressed. I'm a tad old-fashioned in that I wish to elect someone to a post with the expectation that they can do their job. Based on this interview, Harmer is not who I would pick because he's duplicitous and vague. Really, is "I like the approach of Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake. He introduces amendments to bills to strip them of earmarks," an answer? No. He might as well say, I liked the movie Jaws because there's a big shark that eats people. It tells me nothing. To be fair his response sounds more related to the question than a giant shark would be, but not by enough for my esteem.Lastly, I wasn't bemoaning the high number of challengers, but the low number of varied selection. Another year of R or D. Even among the Republican choices Amador, Goehring, and Harmer may as well be the same half-wit.

  • posted at 7:23 am on Thu, May 13, 2010.


    Made sure you slammed the latest Republican to be profiled, didn't you?I think this candidate is probably the best to knock out Jerry McNerney. Nancy Pelosi has enough towel boys in congress; we need someone who represents the Eleventh District. And when you bemoaned the number of challengers to your candidate, Jerry, on Goehring's article, I was puzzled, especially since you implied that you considered yourself to be well-informed. In primaries, sometimes incumbents are challenged by several opponents from other parties. Since the two main parties are Republican and Democrat, one of these parties is most likely to oppose the incumbent from the other party; in this case, Republicans are offering challengers to the Democrat.After Jerry's four years of "telephone town halls", demands that his constituents respect him without having to earn that respect, and votes strictly to please Boss Nancy and the PACs (some Soros-backed) that got him in office, We the People need to assert ourselves and remind all congresscritters who they work for. Hint: It's not Nancy, the DNC, or any special interest groups.

  • posted at 3:27 am on Thu, May 13, 2010.


    Hopefully you're smarter than your book a decade and a half ago.Healthcare: If you can't defend status quo, don't repeal obamacare- take your own advice and use an incremental approach, keep what's good and fix the rest.Immigration: If root problem is democracy in retreat, why do you make no proposals to fix that. If drug war is out of control, propose something. Or is your proposal the reducing of American democracy as you seem to indicate?Federal Deficit: Disingenuous. 2010 Budget TARP+financial stabilization=$0.00. Biggest discretionary fund expenditure is DoD. Address the issue.War on Terror: Our service as world's policemen come to protect American interests. If you want to be compensated, ask the American corporations America is policing the world for.Earmarks: Answer the question.Water: I said answer the damn question.Mistakes: If you see running for Congress is a mistake and you still are rushing into the mistake, I don't want to see the other mistakes you're going to ignore when they are staring you in the face.Overall, doubletalk and falsehoods. Out of the 4 so far, I dislike Emken the least. Still 2 republicans and 1 democrat to go.


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