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McNerney earns our support with a solid first term in Congress — and plenty of visits to Lodi

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Posted: Friday, October 17, 2008 10:00 pm

We didn't endorse Jerry McNerney when he challenged then-incumbent Richard Pombo for Congress.

We had our doubts. He had never held elected office before, after all. He was soft-spoken, professorial. We wondered if he had the stomach or the personality for politics.

He surprised a lot of people by winning that election. He's surprised us by performing diligently as a congressman, reaching out to Lodi and its citizens far more aggressively than we expected - certainly far more than his Republican predecessor did.

It's a pleasant surprise to have an elected official exceed expectations, and McNerney has done that.

His overall performance, his unique area of expertise, and his attention to Lodi constituents earns our endorsement in a tough race with a formidable Republican challenger.

As an energy expert with a doctoral degree from the University of New Mexico, McNerney's value should only rise in Congress in coming months, as the nation struggles to find more and better options to foreign oil. He is big believer in solar and wind, and has the savvy to help move us, as a nation, toward energy self-reliance.

We wish McNerney were more embracing of nuclear, but as is typical, his position is neither entrenched nor dogmatic. He says he is open to more nuclear power development as economics may become more favorable and technology advances to make disposal of nuclear waste less problematic.

We like the fact that he has been a major supporter of our military veterans. As a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, he backed a sizable increase for the Veterans Administration, has focused research on brain injuries to veterans and has set up a district veterans advisory board.

He may have a doctorate, but he's not a know-it-all. Asked about a preferred strategy in Afghanistan, he replied: "I don't know. I don't have an answer." He needs to look more carefully at the situation, he said, and study the options.

Some may contend McNerney should, in fact, have an answer on Afghanistan. We think his reply shows refreshing candor and restraint. McNerney is no blowhard.

Though he voted for the economic bailout, he anguished over the vote. And during meetings of the Democratic caucus, he urged going slow, developing a strong and thoughtful economic plan over creating one in haste.

Yet it is in the area of outreach that McNerney has excelled. He has made the rounds of local farmers, business leaders, service groups and elected officials. But he has also, quite frequently, held his "Congress at Your Corner" meetings and coffee klatches with regular folk. His staff has been eager to publicize such events, understandably; it's been a running joke in the newsroom that McNerney spends more time in Lodi than in Washington, D.C.

That, we'd submit, is not a bad thing.

Republicans have found an extremely able challenger in Dean Andal of Stockton. Andal is a former Assemblyman and a current member of the Lincoln Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Andal has a wonderful sweep of knowledge, from taxation to education to immigration. He is personally impressive, articulate and amiable.

If we were to question Andal, it would be on two areas:

One, his reluctance to commit to a position on the economic bailout until it was passed showed a lack of, shall we say, political fortitude.

Second, he has served as a consultant to Gerry Kamilos, a prominent developer who partnered with Delta College to help develop a satellite campus at Mountain House near Tracy.

That satellite campus has sucked many millions from a bond issue that was supposed to provide enough money for a Lodi campus, too. The college's handling of Mountain House drew a sharp and valid rebuke from the San Joaquin Grand Jury.

The money pit that Mountain House sits in now might very well mean Lodi ends up with nothing.

There is no clear evidence of misconduct by Andal.

Still, it may chafe some in Lodi to think that our next congressman could be, even indirectly, responsible for the vaporization of a college campus here.

- The Lodi News-Sentinel

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