The Sept. 1 primary winnowed the 14 candidates down to five, with Democratic Lt. Gov. John Garamendi the favorite to win the Nov. 3 election in a district that includes Antioch, Oakley, Bethel Island and Knightsen – despite the fact that he lives in Walnut Grove, which is just outside the district.
Not only does Garamendi, a lifelong politician, have excellent name recognition but the 10th District is heavily weighted in favor of Democrats, providing him with a major advantage over Republican candidate David Harmer, an attorney whose father was once a state senator and lieutenant governor.
Democrats comprise 48 percent of the registered voters in the 10th District compared to just 28 percent who are Republican. The remainder belong to minor parties or declined to state their affiliation.
Fewer than one in three registered voters bothered to vote in the primary; but of those who did, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 2-to-1. Garamendi was the top vote getter with 24 percent, followed by Democrat Mark DeSaulnier with 22 percent (only the top vote getter from each party wins). Harmer came in third with 21 percent, easily outdistancing the Republican runner-up, who garnered only 4 percent.
The contrast in political philosophy is significant between Garamendi, a liberal who is to the left of the Congressional Democratic leadership on some issues, and the conservative Harmer, as revealed in a candidate forum on Aug. 11.
Garamendi supports President Obama on immigration reform, including providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and increasing border security.
But he parts company with the president and Democratic leaders on the $106 billion authorization to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is an issue that is going to plague this country and the rest of the world for a long time,” he said. “It’s the hotbed of terrorism probably for much of the world. We need a presence there for a while. I would not have voted for an appropriation unless it was matched with humanitarian and economic development.”
Garamendi supports a government-run health care system – “expanding Medicare to all is the solution” – rather than providing insurance reform.
He supports a modified cap-and-trade program aimed at decreasing greenhouse gases and pollution and dismisses concerns that the extra taxes and regulations would hamper economic growth.
Garamendi, whose house sits by the Sacramento River, fought against the Delta peripheral canal proposal in 1982. “If we are going to solve the (Delta) problem, we need serious conservation,” he said, including increased recycling and well drilling in Southern California.
He favors closing the terrorist prison in Guantanamo Bay and investigating potential wrongdoing by Bush administration officials. “Bush has done much to ruin this country,” he said. “We should investigate what happened during the Bush period, and if someone broke the law they should be held accountable.”
Harmer, while conservative, is not as far to the right as some of the Republican candidates. He even praised Tauscher for her representation of the Bay Area, particularly on getting funding for transportation projects.
But his campaign signs include the slogan “No More Bailouts” and disagreed with Tauscher’s vote in favor of the nearly trillion-dollar bailout for large corporations deemed too big to fail. “We have privatized profit and socialized loss,” he said. “We are taxing people who are frugal and cautious and careful to live within their means, to bail out people who are the opposite of all of those things.”
Harmer differs with Garamendi on immigration reform, saying that while he favors making “it much easier for applicants to immigrate legally, I oppose amnesty for those who broke the law to get here.”
He also disagrees on the issue of energy, saying, “I favor an ‘all of the above’ energy policy that uses the source most appropriate. Nuclear (energy) is a part of that picture. I don’t know if it’s the solution itself everywhere. Cap-and-trade is a moot point. It appears dead in the Senate because of the political tradeoffs. Labeled as being an important environmental protection, it includes subsidies to the dirtiest and most polluting producers.”
On health care, Harmer is opposed to the original 1,000-plus-page Democratic bill that he said would create 53 new federal bureaucracies, uses the words “shall,” “penalty” or “tax” more than 100 times and places bureaucrats between doctors and patients. He favors a consumer-oriented approach that would “preserve the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship and removes mandates that make it more expensive.”
Also on the Nov. 3 ballot are Jeremy Cloward of the Green Party, Jerome Denham of the American Independent Party and Mary McIlroy of the Peace and Freedom Party.