View From Lodi, CA: GOP TO Democrats—”The Fat Lady Hasn`t Sung Yet!”


Last week, the
Lodi News-Sentinel
tepidly endorsed U.S.
Congressional incumbent

Richard Pombo
citing vague reasons like "bright,"
"amiable," and has "solid conservative values."

But the Sentinel
then listed alarming reasons not to support Pombo,
including donations he received from convicted lobbyist

Jack Abramoff
and from the

Indian tribes
whose fortunes he oversees in the
House.

And the Sentinel
noted that Pombo has hired and retained his wife to
work on his re-election staff. Unmentioned is that Pombo
also hired his brother and paid both over the last three
election cycles more than $370,000 for "bookkeeping"
and "consulting."

If you don`t think
these salaries are excessive for the jobs performed,
just try to imagine what you, as a non-Pombo family
member, would be paid.

More abuses that
the News-Sentinel did not include but which are
written up by the

Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
are
Pombo`s support of two new freeway projects (the Pombo
family owns 1,500 acres near the freeway), his
opposition to

environmental standards
, an excessive and
inappropriate use of franking privileges and use of
federal funds for campaign expenses. [Pombo
For Congress—But He Must Clear Ethical Clouds
,
Lodi News-Sentinel, October 14, 2006]

To the list
prepared by the CSOC, I`ll add my own gripes. Pombo has
been a consistent

supporter
of trade agreements and has dishonestly
misrepresented his positions right up to the last
minute.

Prior to the vote
on the

Central American Free Trade Agreement
that expanded
NAFTA into six additional countries, I called Pombo`s
office to encourage a "No" vote. A staffer told
me that Pombo had serious reservations. But that same
night, Pombo voted "Yes" without blinking. 


Previously
Pombo voted "Yes" on the both the
Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements.

And on

immigration
, Pombo`s true position has vacillated so
often voters are hard pressed to figure out what his
true position is.

According to
Pombo`s website, he wants to


“… secure our borders,
and then provide the opportunity for

guest workers
to work legally and pay taxes. I also
believe those who enter the country legally, pay taxes
and learn English should have the opportunity someday to
earn their U.S. citizenship.”

From this comment, I
conclude that Pombo has covered all his bases.
Conveniently, he`s for the conflicting positions of

border security
, a

guest worker program
and

amnesty
.

What the
News-Sentinel`s
endorsement of Pombo underlines is
not the incumbent`s qualifications for re-election so
much as the lack of an attractive Democratic challenger.

The News-Sentinel
damned Jerry McNerney with faint praise as a "thoughtful,
soft-spoken and decent fellow
"
who would make an "excellent college professor."

And this
albatross—unappealing Democratic candidates— hangs
around the party`s neck nationwide.

Look, for example, at
California Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Phil Angelides
—no charisma, no humor, no chance.

And the lack of solid
candidates is one reason that,

current thinking not withstanding
, the Republicans
may keep control of the House in November.

Sure, Americans are
unhappy with the Republicans, President Bush and the
direction of his

War in Iraq
.

But will they vote for
lackluster unknowns?

A highly placed
Capitol Hill Republican operative assured me that the
GOP expects to survive the November scare. He points to
three factors.

  • First, 97.9
    percent of incumbents have been re-elected since
    1996, a huge advantage for Republicans.

  • Second, in 2006
    fewer open seats—the most likely to change hands—are
    up for grabs. Of the 21 total, Bush carried 18 of
    them in 2004 with an average of 61 percent.

  • Third and most
    important, according to the Political Money Line

    website
    , Republican candidates in competitive
    races have a combined $16 million more in cash on
    hand than their Democratic opponents.

Whether 2006 will
be the year that the voters are

finally angry enough
to

throw out
the incumbents remains to be seen.

But the Republicans
can`t be counted out just yet, no matter what you may be
reading or hearing to the contrary.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.