No Herger means tight race for US House of Representatives
The Nov. 6 ballot has something unusual for Yuba-Sutter: A potentially competitive race for the US House of Representatives.
With retiring Rep. Wally Herger's district moved to the north, the 3rd Congressional District race features veteran California politician John Garamendi as the incumbent Democrat against Republican hopeful and Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann as the challenger.
Voter registration tilts toward Democrats, with nearly 41 percent. Republicans make up 32.7 percent, and no-party-preference voters constitute another 21.4 percent of the district, which extends from conservative Yuba-Sutter to more liberal Davis and Vacaville.
But numbers only explain part of the story in the district, where the GOP believes it can win.
A.G. Block, associate director of the University of California Center in Sacramento and a former editor of California Journal magazine, said among other factors, incumbency is less of an advantage this year in the 3rd.
"The Garamendi name in the old district was a significant advantage," Block said of the incumbent's home base 10th Congressional District, which before redistricting included less of the Central Valley and more of the East Bay Area.
"He's a well-known entity, but not so much in the new district," Block said.
Vann's campaign is hoping it's not only a matter of not being familiar, but voters willing to try someone new.
"When you go against an incumbent, it's always an uphill climb," Vann said. "I point to 40 years of very liberal politics from him, and his voting record that's hurt industries here that make this area what it is."
A member of a farming family and previously a congressional staffer to former US Rep. Doug Ose, Vann said she's tried to tie both her private industry background and what she's accomplished as a supervisor to what she's planning to do in Congress.
"First, of course, we've got to get jobs and economy going again," she said, pointing out Colusa County has balanced its budget with a minimum of job losses. "And we've got to get a handle on our debt and our spending."
But Garamendi campaign manager Maureen Erwin said her candidate can point to accomplishments and record to trump any anti-incumbent sentiment.
"Really, it's about what you're fighting for," she said, describing Garamendi's work to support veterans and preserve local water rights, particularly in his opposition to the peripheral tunnel proposal.
If re-elected, Garamendi will continue working on that issue and also push for legislation to build US public works projects with US-made materials whenever possible, she said.
"People want to get the economy back on track," she said.
Suggesting the race's higher profile, both candidates have had big-name backing: former President Bill Clinton endorsed Garamendi earlier this week, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave his support to Vann.
Though Garamendi outpolled all the GOP candidates combined in the June primary, the high number of no-party-preference voters mean both candidates have to work on swaying them, Block said.
What ultimately decides the race, then, might come down to who gets their voters to the polls, he said.
"Turnout's going to decide a lot of things," he said. "The final weeks before the election depends on what's churning in the news."