EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Richard Pombo, Jeff Denham, Jim Patterson, and Finding a Candidate
As June 8th approaches and the California primary looms large, conservatives nationwide will no doubt be watching and rooting for conservative Senate candidate Chuck DeVore to pull out a win for the chance to take down Barbara Boxer. But there is another race that we should all be watching, because it presents an equally stark contrast in candidates, if one only does a little digging. The race is in CA-19 to fill the seat of retiring Rep. George Radanovich. There are three main candidates: State Sen. Jeff Denham, former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson, and former Rep. Richard Pombo, who is trying to return to Congress after being defeated in a different district in 2006. All of the candidates claim to be conservatives, but of course, they’re not.
Lets consider the establishment front runner first, Jeff Denham. He seems like a conservative, at least recently he does. In preparation for a 2010 run for a Republican primary for Lt. Gov., Denham morphed into a fiscal conservative, but earlier in his career he voted for two California budgets that were some of the largest spending increases in state history and significantly contributed to the ongoing fiscal crisis the state is now experiencing. On a local radio show, Denham admitted that he did in a terse exchange with the host, but said it was important to support a new governor named Arnold get his feet under him. Big spending is bad enough, but what’s worse is that he seems to have knowingly enabled the largest tax increase in state history as recently as 2009. As the Flash Report’s Jon Fleishman documented at the time, the Democrats needed a Republican vote to pass the tax increase. Their best bet was liberal Republican Abel Maldonado. Maldonado agreed to vote for the tax increase, but the Democrats had to get his priority, Proposition 14, on this year’s ballot. Proposition 14 would institute an open primary system designed to produce more moderates, and Denham provided one of the crucial Republican votes. Did he know what he was doing? Yes. Denham is now backtracking from his support of Prop. 14. But in a recent Fresno Bee article, Denham says, “While I still support an open primary, I don’t support this one.” The article notes, “The measure was hastily crafted during budget talks, and Denham said he did not realize it had provisions that he does not like.” So clearly the situation was a win-win-win for Denham, if not for California taxpayers; he got to vote against the tax increase for his primary run, help the establishment “govern,” and nab a nice little nugget to further appeal to moderates statewide in a general election. Is that not the definition of the sort of swarminess that we have come to despise about so-called “conservative” politicians?
Yes, state Democrats tried to recall him in 2008, because he got religion and opposed a later Arnold’s budget. But even here, there is more than the meets they eye. As stated, he was gearing up for a statewide primary in 2010, and the Democrats wanted to retaliate and force him to deplete his resources by defending a rearguard action. Remember, just because national Democrats waged a vicious legal war against Tom DeLay a few years back doesn’t mean he wasn’t part of the spending and big-government record from the last Republican Congress. And its almost as if the Democrats, led by Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, felt like former political lovers scorned. According to Perata, “[Denham] was a moderate Republican who cared about education.” Perata, again a Democrat, had made Denham the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and they were known to be close. Hmmm, just the sort of politician we want don’t need more of in Congress. Nonetheless, Denham is the establishment choice. Radanovich is backing him strongly, as are others in the Congressional delegation, such as David Dreier and Darrell Issa.
Now lets consider Pombo. He is remembered as a strong conservative, but he really was not. He was fabulous when it came to environmental and energy issues (and has many loyal fans as a result), and for that, he earned the ire of the Left. They took him out in 2006. But as a Tom DeLay/Denny Hastert loyalist, his overall record is terrible. He voted for No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug bill, and the 2002 farm bill. He is a protectionist, voting against NAFTA and trade deals with Australia and Morocco, and for barriers to steel imports. He voted numerous times to increase his own pay. Pombo is better than Denham, but that’s hardly saying anything. If 2010 is anything, its an opportunity to elect actual conservatives and not overrated retreads. (I do think this is why conservative stalwart Rep. Tom McClintock jumped in for Pombo. Just a hunch, but after serving with Denham, perhaps he thought he was picking the horse at the time that could beat him.)
So what about Jim Patterson? He is the unabashed conservative in the race. Despite being a constitutionally weak mayor until his second term, Patterson fought spending increases throughout his term. He proposed balanced budgets without tax increases, and fought a taxpayer subsidized stadium deal for the Fresno Grizzlies, which is now costing the city about $1 million per year and making residents long favorably for the Patterson years. This was a huge row at the time (think of all the cries for “economic development” and “jobs” that must have been prevalent!), and Patterson’s enemies tried to recall him over his opposition to the deal. This is exactly the sort of track record that we can trust in an election climate where candidates are tripping over themselves to be appear conservative.
Patterson can win. He is the only candidate who actually lives in the district, but he needs our help to fundraise and get ads on the air. In a mid-May Survey USA poll, Patterson (29%) is running neck and neck with Denham (28%), with Pombo at 18%; 19% are undecided. But according to a more recent Public Opinion Strategy poll, Denham (31%) is leading Patterson (23%), with Pombo (14%) trailing; 23% are undecided. (There is a fourth candidate, but he is polling in the single digits.) This is a clear opportunity for a conservative in the race to win, but you and I need to help rally people to his campaign. Please join me in helping send to Jim Patterson to Congress.