Pombo Dodges the First Bullet

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • Carl Pope Former executive director and chairman, Sierra Club

Tracy, CA -- Richard Pombo is whistling past the graveyard this morning. He won his Republican primary and barely made the 60 percent margin that causes the media to view the victory as solid -- 62.5 percent. But almost 40 percent of the Republican voters chose either environmental hero Pete McCloskey, who moved into the district to run and called himself "a carpetbagger" or the third candidate, Tom Benigno, who framed himself as a local Republican alternative. Worse, Pombo's vote total -- 29,000 votes -- was actually less than that of his two Democratic opponents combined. So Democratic winner Jerry McNerney wins in November if he can hold the Democrats (which should he should) and also get more than half of the anti-Pombo Republican vote. Pombo, on the other hand, wins only if he can earn back more than half the voters who went for McCloskey -- not an easy lift.

In the primary, the Sierra Club used mail, radio ads, and door-to-door conversations to tell Republican voters about Pombo's dismal environmental record, showcasing his efforts to open up Northern California's coasts to oil drilling, his push to sell off our National Parks and Monuments to developers, his attempts to undermine the laws that protect our nation's wildlife and their habitat, and the fact that he recently took over $200,000 in campaign contributions from the oil industry.

Clearly, the people of the 11th Congressional District heard us.