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McNerney’s Election Night in Dublin

14 November 2008 No Comment

By Adelaide Chen

Nothing could spoil election night for volunteers who had donated time and money to send freshman Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) back to Washington D.C. for a second term.

McNerney delivered his victory speech just before midnight at an election party a few hours after Barack Obama’s Presidential win.  A crowd had stayed under the white tent in the parking lot of a union hall in Dublin to see McNerney’s moment of triumph, although Obama’s televised acceptance speech had ended and the caterers had packed up.

McNerney had led former State Assemblyman and Republican Dean Andal throughout the evening on the big television screen. In the end, the vote would turn out 55.4 percent McNerney, 44.6 percent Andal.

Democrats scored a double victory in the otherwise majority Republican 11th Congressional district stretching from the Central Valley to fringes of the East Bay to San Jose.  No Democratic Congressmember has held the seat at the same time a Democratic President has held the Oval office since 1976.

“(The voters) have responded…by making the message, that yes, they not only want me to go back, but they’ve elected Barack Obama for President of the United States,” McNerney said.

“They’ve elected many new (Democratic) members for House of Representatives and for the Senate. And we now have what it takes to get things done for the American people,” he said.  Democrats had gained enough seats to widen their majority over Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

Republican strategists had identified the district 11 election as a key race to take back.  Republican Richard Pombo, a seven-term incumbent, had held the position from 1993 to 2007 until his reputation was damaged over allegations over scandal and corruption.

McNerney, a Pleasanton resident, and an expert in wind energy, had no political experience prior to running for Congress.  He had lost to Pombo in 2004.

“I’d always thought he’d be a college professor,” said his wife Mary McNerney, referring to her husband’s doctorate in mathematics.   She said after 9-11, their son Michael had convinced him to run for Congress.

In the 2006 election, environmental groups backed McNerney with financial contributions and volunteers, favoring his background in renewable energy as an engineer of wind turbines.

Defenders of Wildlife member Beverly Berman had worked on McNerney’s campaign for the second time.  The first time was in 2006.

“I wanted to get rid of Pombo,” said the Danville resident. “He was one of the worst people we had in Congress,” she said, citing his record on environment and animal rights.  “I worked hard on the phones and whatever they wanted me to do.”

Democrat Claudia McCormick, 59, former Vice-Mayor of Dublin, said she had never seen such a big election party in the city, or with as many young people present.

“When we have parties, it’s usually older folks,” she said.  On election day she volunteered for McNerney’s campaign to drive precinct walkers because “they were too young to have driver’s licenses.”

One of the teenage volunteers was her grandaughter Ariel Welch, 17, a senior at Freedom High School in Oakley who was recruited for the McNerney campaign through her Government class.

“I started going every week and going door-to-door,” said Welch.  “Now I’m totally interested in politics.  I like how everyone comes together for one cause.”

As for meeting McNerney in person for the first time, she said, “He was really nice.  He wanted to shake everyone’s hand.”

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