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Doug LaMalfa

LaMalfa, a rice farmer from Butte County, is a former member of the State Assembly.

 

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Today's Commentary on the News

 

Doolittle May Be Vulnerable - But Not To This Challenger

 

by Jon Fleischman - Publisher (bio) (email)

 
5-31-2007 8:21 am

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that a military reservist, Eric Egland, is seriously looking at running against Congressman John Doolittle in next year's GOP primary in the 4th District.  FR readers know that Doolittle has been at the center of controversy stemming from his wife Julie's professional relationship with the now-imprisoned lobbyist-turned-crook Jack Abramoff, the Doolittle's personal friendship with Abramoff, and the fact that in a rather public and high profile way, investigators with the FBI are looking very closely at the Abramoff/Doolittle connection (fairly recently a subpoena was served on the Doolittle home, where Julie has her home-office).

No on has accused either the Congressman or his wife of criminal wrongdoing.  That said, when you are in elective office, and are seeking re-election, you aren't in a court of law, but rather a court of public opinion.  Given the poor publicity that Doolittle has received, and given the sour-taste in the mouths of voters from actual proven corruption on the Hill (Duke Cunningham, et.al), it is unclear whether the public will make a distinction between the convicted, and the accused, or in the case of Doolittle, the unconvincted and unaccused.  It would be very interesting to see a credible survey that shows how Doolittle would fare against a Democrat opponent next November, after barely getting re-elected last year (in a seat that was specifically carved to only elect a Republican).

This is a great opportunity for me to share with FlashReport readers that I have known John and Julie for eighteen years, and have found them both to be honorable and good people.  Frankly, I would be extremely shocked (to put it mildly) if either of them were convicted for any wrongdoing.  But there is also no doubt that Jack Abramoff, who turned out to be a terrible person, and a common crook, has really dragged down a lot of politicians around him just because of his association with them (Richard Pombo's innocent connection to Abramoff was used as a campaign tool against him, and he lost a pretty close race last year in a neighboring district).

It doesn't really come as any surprise that someone, in this case a relatively obscure military reservist, would step up to challenge Doolittle in the primary.  I don't know Egland, though his service to our nation is admirable and garners him a lot of respect from this website publisher.  I note from the Bee article that Egland is a 'lifelong independent' who only re-registered in the GOP in the last year, which hardly gives him party credentials for this kind of challenge.  That having been said, his presence in a primary doesn't really strike me as overly problematic to Doolittle.

There are some others out there that have been talking about a primary run, including well-respected Assemblyman Ted Gaines (a long-time supporter of Doolittle I might add) about whom the Congressman should be more than just a little concerned.  A serious primary challenge would really make it difficult for Doolittle to retool and resuscitate his political image in his district -- something that the Congressman is seriously engaged in trying to do.

In the end, I suspect Doolittle's road towards renomination as the GOP candidate in the 4th District will hinge around what credible polling numbers show as to his ability to win a general election next year.  It will likely be a determining factor about whether he draws one or more credible challengers.  Doolittle would benefit greatly from an expedited conclusion to the federal probe into his wife's professional dealings with Abramoff.  But the feds will not be in a hurry, and probably welcome the political drama.

It seems fairly ancillary to this major challenge for the Congressman, to opine on matters of policy.  But Doolittle's "other" challenge, as a someone who sat in House Leadership (as Conference Secretary) when the GOP presided over massive growth in federal spending, will be to convince his most conservative supporters that his decade-and-a-half on The Hill didn't cause him to lose touch with the reasons he went to Washington in the first place.  Is it Doolittle the conservative?  Or Doolittle the Appropriator?  I have not seen anything from Doolittle that would amount to a "what I did wrong in the majority and how, specifically, would do things differently in a new GOP majority" -- though I would welcome the chance to print such a commentary from him on this site.

It is clear that Doolittle understands that he is in the midst of the most challenging time in his political career, and I am sure that he is 100 percent committed to seeing this through.  But it is going to be a long summer and fall for the Congressman.

Now, where's that survey?

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