TOM McCLINTOCK THE WINNER IN TIGHT RACE FOR CONGRESS
10:00 PM Eastern
by Sarah Foster
December 2, 2008
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It’s all over but the shouting. State Sen. Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican with 22 years experience in the California Legislature and a reputation for opposing taxes and government spending, will be heading to Washington in January to take over the seat vacated by the retirement of Republican congressman John Doolittle.
“When the final votes were counted, it was the people of the 4th Congressional District who made the decision to stand by our traditional American principles of individual freedom and limited government, and it will be my distinct honor to carry that message to the 111th Congress of the United States,” McClintock said Monday during a press conference at the campaign’s district office where he formally announced victory.
Doolittle who has represented California’s 4th Congressional District since 1993, is under federal criminal investigation for alleged ties to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. He denies any wrongdoing but decided not to seek reelection.
McClintock, 52, and Brown, 58, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, waged a fierce battle for the open congressional seat, and the fight didn’t end when the polls closed on Election Day. The results were so close – 50.3 to 49.7 percent – a recount was mandated of all ballots in the nine counties of the District, which covers northeastern California from Lake Tahoe to the Oregon border. [Click here for map].
the vote-count completed except for a “handful” ballots
in one county, McClintock claimed victory late Wednesday afternoon against
Brown who had come within three percentage points (46 to 49 percent)
of ousting Doolittle in 2006.
“The lead of 1,775 votes is a margin of victory that puts us well outside the possibility of a recount changing the outcome,” McClintock announced in an informal release posted Wednesday on the campaign website. “To put it in perspective, it is more than twice the margin by which I lost the race for State Controller in 2002.”
He said the numbers came in too late for a press conference that day, but he’d have a formal statement ready Monday, Dec. 1.
“It is appropriate that the tally should be completed on the eve of Thanksgiving Day – it is a reminder of how much I owe to all those who rallied to the cause and to the voters of the 4th Congressional District,” McClintock said.
The End of the Beginning?
This should bring to a close one of the most intense cliffhangers of the November election. But don’t count on it. Brown has refused to concede until every vote is counted, and even when the totals are certified “it might not be the end, but just the end of the beginning,” as one reporter put it, suggesting the possibility of a second recount.
And that could very well happen. It’s a high-stakes race with a lot riding on it: Both parties want control of the district that has been Republican since 1990. Republicans want to maintain control, the Democrats want to wrest it from them and add the district to the growing list of congressional offices they hold.
On Nov. 4, an initial tally of the day’s balloting showed McClintock with 50.3 percent of the vote and Brown right behind him with 49.7 percent. Next morning, the California Secretary of State’s website listed McClintock with a mere 451-vote lead. The registrar of voters offices for each of the counties dug in for what turned out to be a three-week-long recount session of roughly 370,000 ballots, including the absentee, damaged and provisional.
Provisional ballots are issued at the polls to voters whose status us isn’t clear. When cast, they’re set aside for later verification and (if approved) inclusion in the count. Usually there aren’t enough to influence the outcome, but in this race every vote mattered.
Throughout the recount McClintock maintained a lead that surged at one point to nearly 1,800 votes, and narrowed to 359, as the counties turned in their counts.
At 1:34 pm Nov. 26, the Secretary of State’s website showed the percentage separating the two candidates was still 50.3 to 49.7 percent, with McClintock leading Brown by 1,576 votes. But later in the afternoon the McClintock campaign received word from one of the counties of a just-completed vote count that widened the gap to 1,775. The total number of votes district-wide was up to 368,455 – 185,615 for McClintock; 183,840 for Brown.
Essentially the race is over. As it stands, it looks like California’s 4th Congressional District will continue to be a conservative Republican stronghold for at least two more years -- unless Brown’s campaign demands a second recount or pursues other legal options.
By state elections law, the counties must finish their counting by Dec. 2, certify the results and submit them to the Secretary of State’s office by Dec. 9. The Secretary of State’s office then has until Dec. 13 to formally certify the results, at which time legal challenges could be launched.
From Thousand Oaks to the Sierras
McClintock, a resident of Thousand Oaks, a city northwest of Los Angeles, is no stranger to politics or close races. First elected to the state Assembly in 1982 at the age of 26, except for the years from 1992 to 1996, he’s been in the legislature ever since, where he scored high marks of approval from conservatives and libertarians for his opposition to taxes and government spending programs.
NewsWithViews.com columnist Geoff Metcalf described McClintock as a “for real Jeffersonian constitutional conservative” with “rock solid adherence to his principles” – a man who, “unlike most politicians ... does not lie, dissemble, compromise, or weasel.”
Under the term-limits law, which was enacted through a citizens’ initiative in the late 1980s, McClintock had to give up his Assembly seat in 2000, but was elected to California’s largely Republican 19th State Senate District, which includes much of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and a small section of Los Angeles County.
During his two terms in the state Senate, McClintock made several unsuccessful bids for statewide office. He ran for governor of California in the 2003 recall, finishing third with 13.5 percent of the overall vote. In 2006 he was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, but lost to Democrat John Garamendi by 4 percent.
He ran for state controller in 1994, losing by 2.3 percent against a heavily financed opponent, and again in 2002. Supporters say he could have won those campaigns with more financial help from the Republican establishment.
In his second attempt he took 45.1 percent of the vote, but Democrat Steve Westly squeaked by him to victory with 45.4 percent. McClintock’s campaign used low-cost 15-second radio ads featuring a fictional relative, “Angus McClintock”, who extolled his “cousin’s” thriftiness and accountability as reasons for putting him in charge of the state’s finances.
Over the years McClintock built a reputation like that of the fictional Angus, and carries to Congress the endorsements of many small-government/fiscal conservatives and libertarians, including the GOP’s Republican Liberty Caucus, Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
McClintock Signs ATR Pledge
While in the Senate McClintock not only signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, he headed the Taxpayer Protection Caucus. He signed again prior to his run for Congress.
The Pledge commits signers to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates."
“By signing the Pledge, Tom McClintock demonstrates his allegiance to hard-working taxpayers nationwide, as well as dedication to taxpayers in California,” said Norquist. “I applaud him for his leadership and dedication to the ideals of limited government.”
When McClintock decided to campaign for Doolittle’s seat the big question was whether endorsements from Norquist, Paul and others would translate into votes in a congressional district where McClintock was known essentially by reputation only. The 19th State Senate District is in southern California, over 400 miles away from the 4th Congressional District – which enabled Brown to create an image of McClintock as a “carpetbagger.”
That could be the reason the race in such a strongly Republican district was so close, plus the fact that Brown proved to be a very tough opponent.
McClintock congratulated Brown and his supporters “on waging one of the most hard-fought campaigns I have ever faced,”
“There can be no doubt of the sincerity of their views or the dedication with which they pursued them,” he said. “I know from personal experience how difficult it is to lose a close race, and I hope it is a consolation for them to know that they made a truly superb effort.”
Another Cliffhanger: The 19th State Senate District Race
With public attention focused on the McClintock/Brown battle, it was easy to overlook an ongoing cliffhanger in southern California: the recount of votes in the race for McClintock’s state Senate seat that was left open by his leaving the Legislature.
In what turned out to be closest state Senate race in California this year, Republican Tony Strickland battled Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson, an Assembly member who was termed-limited out of office and hoped to move to the Senate. As with the 4th Congressional race, the stakes were high: a Jackson victory would give Democrats 26 seats in the 40-seat Upper House, the most they’ve had since 2002.
Strickland served three terms in the Assembly from 1998 to 2004. His wife, Audra Strickland has been in the Assembly since 2004 representing an area that overlays the 19th State Senate District. She was reelected in November for a third and final term. Both Stricklands signed the ATR Pledge to oppose tax increases.
Although the 19th State Senate District is predominantly Republican, Jackson, like Brown, proved to be a formidable adversary and the final results required a recount.
On election night Jackson was ahead by 108 votes, but that changed as absentee ballots began to be counted. Strickland eventually took the lead, which topped at 2,456 votes, then steadily declined as provisional ballots were counted in the three counties.
The race ended late Wednesday evening when, with a gap of just 900 votes separating the two candidates, Jackson conceded.
“Yesterday [Wednesday] I called Tony Strickland to congratulate him on his victory,” Jackson said in a prepared statement. “We fought hard to win this senate seat in a heavily Republican district.”
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The final vote tally on Monday showed Strickland with 203,847 votes (50.2 percent), to Jackson’s 202,631 votes (49.8 percent) – a difference of 1,216 votes.
Strickland will take his seat in the State Senate, his office just down the hall from his wife’s. The Stricklands and other Assembly members will be officially sworn into the California Legislature today.
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