Republican fights to win back 11th district

At a Danville Starbucks, Andal was pressing the flesh Tuesday. The 49-year-old former state assemblyman is a conservative from Stockton, the eastern part of the district.

Andal's opponent is 57-year-old Pleasanton incumbent McNerney. In 2006, McNerney defeated seven-term Congressman Richard Pombo in a district that leans Republican. Although the district voted for President Bush in both 2000 and 2004, McNerney is counting on Bush's unpopularity to help him win re-election.

"The Republican brand is fairly dirtied up," McNerney said.

He points to the war in Iraq, the environment and the economy as evidence.

"The economy is the big one that overshadows everything else because Stockton, as you know, is the foreclosure capital of the country; people are hurting," he said.

Their respective positions on the $700 billion bailout bill stand out as a major difference between the two candidates.

"My first reason for opposing the bailout bill is pretty evident right now; it didn't work," Andal said. "Our credit markets didn't magically improve overnight, like they were expected to do when they passed the bill."

Andal calls the government bailout a waste of money. McNerney calls it necessary.

"The recovery package will help people stay in their homes; that's important," McNerney said.

The real waste of money has been the war in Iraq, McNerney said. He won his seat opposing the war and voted against funding it without a timeline for bringing the troops home.

"I'm not going to support the president's war policy if he doesn't have a responsible way to end that war," McNerney said.

Andal has called McNerney's vote immoral.

Andal also supports offshore drilling; while McNerney thinks oil companies should take advantage of the leases they already hold.

At a debate in Tracy, the candidates also faced on /*Proposition 8*/, which would ban same-sex marriage in California. Andal supports the ban, McNerney does not.

The GOP wants to reclaim the district; the Republican National Committee has been sending reporters hit pieces on McNerney since the day he took office.

"Being a freshman, I'm targeted; every move I make is scrutinized," McNerney said.

But with Democrats' help, McNerney has raised more than $2 million, twice as much as Andal.

While the GOP may want to reclaim the seat, it is spending its money to protect incumbents, and has not been willing to donate what it would take to close the two to one money advantage.

In a tough year for Republicans, even Andal is downplaying his party affiliation.

"I don't believe that if I'm privileged to represent the people in congress that I'm a Republican congressman; I'm first and foremost an American," Andal said.

The non-partisan Cook Report, which rates congressional races, gives McNerney a slight edge in what is expected to be a close race.

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