Garamendi drops out of governor's race

May 11, 2009 7:45:05 PM PDT
Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi says he expects to drop out of the race for governor and run instead for Congress in the 10th Congressional District, a sprawling area in the East Bay that includes parts of Solano, Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

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Garamendi will be termed out of the lieutenant governor's job in 2010. Rep. Ellen Tauscher's congressional seat will open up if she is confirmed as the new undersecretary of state for arms control and Garamendi is sees an opportunity.

"I'm putting my gubernatorial campaign on the back burner and moving to something that would give me the opportunity to immediately engage in what is the most important task at hand, which is getting people back to work," Garamendi said.

The move gives Garamendi a better chance to remain at work as an elected official, according to ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain. Cain says with Attorney General Jerry Brown, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaregosa lining up for the governor's race, Garamendi's bid was a long shot.

"Garamendi has probably done some opinion polling, sees himself behind all of these people, probably has single digit support," Cain said. And, Cain said, Garamendi could win the seat, even though he does not technically live in the district.

"Listen, to be a member of Congress you do not need to reside in the district, but I'm not kidding, my front yard is in the district," Garamendi said.

Garamendi lives on the eastern border of the district, but most of the money, and the great majority of the votes in the 10th District, are on the west side in Contra Costa County. That is where former county supervisor, former assemblyman and current state Senator Mark Desaulnier is also running for Tauscher's seat. He is considered the front runner.

"It'll be a challenge, he'll be a formidable opponent, I think I have, I think I represent the district better, I think my endorsements speak to that," Desaulnier said.

Desaulneir has been endorsed by Tauscher and Concord Congressman George Miller. But Garamendi has state wide name recognition; and that matters. In 2004, former state Attorney General Dan Lungren ran for Congress in a district where he was not a native, and won.

"This is very comparable and that's no doubt what's encouraging Garamendi, to think that his state wide reputation trumps the fact that he doesn't' have Contra Costa roots," Cain said.

On a related note, Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir is worried. He says incumbents in state government running for Tauscher's seat could trigger a cascade.

"We've already done the math on that, worst case scenario is six special elections between August of this year and June of next year, six," Weir said. Weir says it could cost the county $12 million.

There are other people who are not incumbents that are also eyeing Tauscher's seat. Some have publicly announced their intention to run; others are just mulling it over. No one has officially registered because the opening does not yet exist. Tauscher must first be confirmed for her job with the Obama administration.

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