Editorial: The Planet Endorses . . .

By Becky O’Malley
Friday September 22, 2006

We have had many inquiries about whether or not the Planet will endorse candidates for the November election. Election day is a little over six weeks away, and mail-in ballots (formerly known as absentees) will be out in little more than a week. More and more voters are going to be voting by mail, so the campaign is winding up right now. Last-chance political efforts, sponsored by MoveOn.org and others, are underway across the nation and in this area.  

So it’s time for us to present our first endorsement. We strongly support Jerry McNerny for Congress. And no, most of you won’t be able to vote for him. Jerry is the candidate in California’s 11th Congressional District, a roughly C-shaped area carved out of non-coastal Northern California that goes east beyond Manteca and south beyond Morgan Hill. It’s now one of the few usually-Republican districts in the Bay Area, and it’s currently represented by the execrable Richard Pombo, who never met an environmental protection law he didn’t try to destroy.  

It’s possible—barely—that Jerry McNerny can beat Pombo this time. Jerry McNerney is his own man, and we don’t just like him because he’s a hard-headed Irishman. He’s also an environmental engineer who first ran for Congress in 2004 because his son, who joined the Air Force after 9-11, told him it was his duty to change the country’s direction. He got 39 percent of the vote in that election without any support from the sluggish state or national Democratic Party.  

But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, late to the party as usual, has just named Jerry one of their “emerging candidates,” which means that their polls show that he’s close enough to winning that they’ll deign to send money. This is, of course, after they wasted a lot of bucks supporting a more tractable candidate against him in the primary, who lost two-to-one.  

Evidently the Repugs and their pollsters think McNerney’s doing well too, because they’ve already spent over a quarter of a million dollars on fancy mailers against him, with much more to come. Here’s what his campaign manager, A.J. Carrillo, says on his website about the influx of national Republican dollars: “Lots of money. Little impact. With Pombo’s internal poll numbers in apparent free-fall and his astroturf field campaign virtually dead, Pombo is now pulling a very risky rabbit out of his cowboy hat—a fancy fundraiser with George W. Bush on Oct. 3 in Stockton.” This should be fun. The McNerney people plan to spend their much-less-abundant money trying to tie Pombo as close to Bush’s falling star as possible, which shouldn’t be hard since he voted with Dubya at least 83 percent of the time.  

If we here in the Urban East Bay can’t vote for McNerney, what can we do?  

1. Send money. Details are on his excellent website: jerrymcnerney.org. You can use your credit card onsite. Or mail a check made out to “McNerney for Congress” to: McNerney for Congress, P.O. Box 12022, Pleasanton, CA 94588. Include your phone number so they can call you for reporting details. 

2. Volunteer. Local feuds stop at the district’s edge, so an amazing assemblage of people who ordinarily glare at one another got together in Berkeley last Saturday for a fundraiser and pep rally, where you could sign up to go out to the 11th District (just an hour or two away) and work precincts, or to telephone from home. Again, check the website for details, or call the Dublin campaign office at (925) 833-0643.  

This one’s a no-brainer. But what about Planet endorsements in other races? Well, here’s what we’re doing for starters. There will be one day for each contested race when candidates will be allotted a generous amount of space in the Planet’s opinion section to say whatever they want the voters to know. No-shows will be indicated by a blank. We’ll run shorter rebuttals and reader comments on a space-available basis, with some attempt to be fair and overflow on the website. Several candidates have already had comments printed, but that won’t be counted against them for the future. (There will also be days for contested ballot proposals.) 

After candidates have had a chance to speak for themselves, and their friends have had a chance to speak for them, we at the Planet may or may not add our heavy thumb to the scale if we feel strongly about a particular race or proposal. Actually, and this should come as no surprise to anyone, the executive editor will exercise her executive privilege right now to tell Berkeleyans that they’d be crazy not to vote for Measure J, to re-enact our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, which has for more than 20 years worked well to preserve our beautiful urban environment.  

They used to say in Chicago, “Vote Early and Often,” but “Vote Early” is a better choice these days. One good thing about voting early is that you use a paper ballot, since many are suspicious of the voting machine alternative. 

But don’t wait for us to tell you what to think. Read our opinion pages and the news pages as well, make up your own mind, and just vote. Just do it.