GOP's Emken sees tough Senate contest against Feinstein
US Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken painted a picture of an uphill climb in her quest to unseat longtime California Sen. Dianne Feinstein in November, in a Monday swing through Yuba-Sutter.
She told about 30 supporters at the Yuba County Republican Party headquarters in Marysville that she lags behind the former San Francisco mayor in polling, name recognition and fundraising.
But Emken said that, with large numbers of undecided voters, and polling showing increasing support for her campaign in the past two months, she has reason for optimism.
"Let's be clear: People aren't unsure about who Dianne Feinstein is," she said. "They're undecided about whether they want to stay married to her on Nov. 6. They're looking for an alternative."
Emken, director of a not-for-profit group for autism advocacy, emerged from a pack of mostly political unknowns to be the GOP challenger this year to Feinstein, who was elected to the Senate in 1992.
In her 20-minute speech to the GOP faithful on Monday afternoon, with another appearance planned Monday evening in Yuba City, Emken described her business and advocacy background before her opposition to health care reform led her into politics.
"My background has been all about service and helping kids and families," she said. "You can tell I'm not someone who'll send Grandma over the cliff in her wheelchair."
While her main policy goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better, she said, she is also focused on reforming the tax code, overhauling energy policy and pursuing long-needed water projects.
If she is elected, she said in an interview, she would work to reduce the Yuba-Sutter area's high unemployment both by pushing for investments in water infrastructure to boost jobs, and using the Senate as a bully pulpit to make the state more business-friendly.
"It's not going to be enough to be competitive with other states on regulations and taxes," she said. "We have to have incentives to get back what we've pushed out."
Emken said she wasn't familiar with Enterprise Rancheria, the proposed Yuba County Indian casino that Feinstein is on record as opposing.
"You know, I'd have to know more about it," said Emken, who's from Danville. "But I'm for business growth, certainly."
The appearance included a pitch for fundraising, with Emken telling listeners she doubts she can afford a large media campaign. "This is just a matter of getting the message out."
Browns Valley resident Blaine Henrickson, who heard Emken's speech, said he would readily acknowledge the daunting task of beating Feinstein, who won re-election handily in 2006 and 2000.
But Emken's background makes her someone Republicans can rally around, he said.
"I think she's experienced enough to do the job we haven't had done in the last few years," said Henrickson, 78. "We all know we have to quit spending so much money. So does she."