Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, deserves to be reelected to Congress for another two-year term, although his Republican opponent, Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, is a worthy candidate who should have a political future.
Garamendi, 67, and Vann, 37, seek the privilege of representing the newly redrawn 3rd Congressional District, which includes some or all of Solano, Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, Colusa and Glenn counties. The race is attracting attention from outside groups as Democrats and Republicans fight for control of the House.
Garamendi has been a part of California politics since 1974, when he won an Assembly seat. He has served as a state senator, insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor, a post he left midterm in 2009 when he won an open congressional seat.
Garamendi is a rancher and is steeped in water and environmental issues, having worked in the mid-1990s in the Clinton administration Interior Department. If returned to Congress, he could serve as a strong counterweight to Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to build a pair of peripheral tunnels through his Delta district, a project Garamendi strongly opposes.
Garamendi advocates tying government contracts for rail and other public works projects to agreements that the equipment is manufactured domestically, an important way to rebuild manufacturing jobs. That could be especially important to the California economy as the Brown administration embarks on the high-speed rail project.
Garamendi is a tenacious and hard-working politician. He also is a Democratic partisan. One challenge for him will be to find common ground with Republicans on issues that affect the Sacramento region, including securing federal funds to shore up Sacramento River levees.
Vann, who comes from a rice farming family, also understands water, and offers a practical approach to governance, a hallmark of supervisors who run as nonpartisans. She has rejected the no-tax pledge that too many Republican have signed, and disagrees with congressional Republicans' view about earmarks, promising that if elected, she would work to secure money for levee improvement.
She also would join other Republicans by voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation approved in a generation.
Vann says she would seek to retain popular provisions of "Obamacare," such as permitting young adults to remain on their parents' policies until age 26, and extending coverage to people with preexisting conditions. Like other Republicans who share that position, however, she offers no path for paying for such coverage.
Although Vann is a strong candidate, Garamendi offers a depth of experience in and an understanding of domestic and international issues that is rare among relatively new members of Congress. He deserves another two-year term.