Democrats Regina Bateson and Jessica Morse would be better representatives than Tom McClintock

A boisterous crowd attends a town hall Rep. Tom McClintock in El Dorado Hills in March 2017. Three Democrats are trying to unseat McClintock in the 4th Congressional District.
A boisterous crowd attends a town hall Rep. Tom McClintock in El Dorado Hills in March 2017. Three Democrats are trying to unseat McClintock in the 4th Congressional District. Sacramento Bee file

Too often, Rep. Tom McClintock votes against the best interests of his constituents. Too seldom, he advocates for local officials and companies.

The 4th Congressional District, which stretches from Roseville east to Lake Tahoe and south to Yosemite National Park, can do so much better. Fortunately for voters, they have good alternatives in the June 5 primary.

Of the three 30-something female Democrats running – in and of itself a good thing – Regina Bateson and Jessica Morse are the two strongest contenders. Since the district’s political makeup makes it almost certain that Republican McClintock will grab one spot in the top two primary, Bateson is best positioned to give him the toughest battle in November.

She has the credentials, the local connections and, importantly, more credibility than the other Democrats. Bateson, who grew up in Roseville, graduated from Stanford and Yale, joined the Foreign Service after 9/11 and is on leave as a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pragmatic in outlook, she is a better fit for the district. She has good ideas about how to serve constituents better, pledges to hold 10 town halls a year and has a well-thought out strategy to upset McClintock.

She is criticized for breaking a pledge to drop out if she didn’t win the official party endorsement. She admits she changed her mind, but makes a compelling case that party delegates didn’t reflect Democrats in the district.

Morse is also a high achiever. She grew up in Carmichael and has worked for the State Department, Defense Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, including duty in Iraq, before returning to the district in 2015.

Unfortunately and unnecessarily, she has embellished her record, at times claiming she managed half the foreign aid budget and wrote a new U.S.-India defense strategy. Despite the misstep, she won the party endorsement in February, has picked up support from Washington, D.C., insiders and has piled up campaign cash, raising more than Bateson and even McClintock.

But her resume padding would be easy pickings for Republican operatives in the fall campaign.

The third Democrat, Roza Calderon, may lack traditional credentials, but makes up for it with her life story. Calderon came here as a political refugee from El Salvador when she was 2. A single mom who put herself through Sierra College and Humboldt State University, her experience is closer to the working class people she wants to champion. Endorsed by the progressive Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, she also boasts a longer track record of political activism in the district.

But Calderon faces allegations that she embezzled money from Placer Women Democrats, a group she started, and hacked its accounting system. While she hasn’t been charged and has a plausible explanation of what happened, it could be very difficult to overcome that legal cloud.

The campaign among the three Democrats has become testy, but it may also be bringing in new voters. Only a unified and larger opposition has a chance of ousting McClintock, who has been entrenched since 2009.

He declined to be interviewed by the Sacramento Bee editorial board, or even to submit a written statement. Instead his campaign sent an email that he is “not interested” in The Bee’s endorsement.

So voters can only go by his record. When angry protestors showed up at a February 2017 town hall, the vast majority of them retirees and grandmothers worried about their health care, he claimed that they were “anarchists.” Then he voted to gut the Affordable Care Act.

And he tried to have it both ways on the terrible Republican tax cut bill. Last December, he was one of 13 House Republicans to vote against it, criticizing its impact on Californians. He then changed his vote on the final version, claiming it had “important improvements” for California.

McClintock has the power of incumbency and a district where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats 43 percent to 29 percent, but even local conservatives would be better served by someone who actually lives in the district; McClintock lives in Elk Grove, 40 miles outside it.

If Democrats are to retake the U.S. House this year, they have to flip seats like this one. Bateson would have the best chance in November.

McNerney, Livengood in 9th

In the 9th Congressional District – which is centered in San Joaquin County and includes slivers of Contra Costa and Sacramento counties – there are two serious candidates who are clear choices to move on to November: Democrat Jerry McNerney, first elected in 2006, and Republican Marla Livengood, a first-time candidate who worked for the San Joaquin Transit District and now for the California Strawberry Commission.

There is a third candidate, Mike Tsarnas of the far-right American Independent Party. Voters shouldn’t be confused. He is not an independent and should be rejected in the June primary.

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