By Tim Crews
Maybe a slugfest in the Second Congressional District after all. In the right corner, wearing the red trunks, Wally Herger. A 24-year member of the United States Congress, known for faithfully voting the party line and rarely, if ever, sponsoring legislation. He is 65 and lists Chico as his hometown.
In the left corner, wearing the blue trunks, is Jim Reed. The pro-gun lawyer is 60-years-old. He's from Fall River Mills, where he says, if you are not a gun rights advocate you are foolish. Law enforcement response is more than an hour.
Mr. Reed has his work cut out for him, even given Mr. Herger's low-key approach to representing his district. While high on photo-ops like marijuana raids and levy walks, Mr. Herger has failed to come through for the projects that would spare life and limb, like the Hamilton City levee and the South Fork of Willow Creek dam, both designed to prevent flooding and to save lives.
Having just signed the pledge against earmarks, Mr. Herger, however, did bring in a little money for the Maxwell Fish Screens.
Mr. Reed is coming in with some jabs and roundhouse punches, but he's mostly fighting air. Mr. Herger and his cornermen have failed to rise to three direct debate challenges, says Mr. Reed.
On Sunday, Mr. Reed stopped by to do a few warm-ups and some speedbag work.
It's clear that the time for genteel Democratic party tactics of the past are out and direct punches are in.
But for every score landed on Mr. Herger, Mr. Reed has a solution, "One of the reasons we are not doing better," he said of the North State's horrible slump even in good times, is that Mr. Herger doesn't advocate with the many federal agencies for a piece of the discretionary money.
With the federal government spending some $18,000 for every rural American, according to a Christian Science Monitor and PBS-Newshour study, Shasta County gets just $10,263 or 57 percent and Glenn County gets $15,415, or 86 percent. But much of that is paid to people who work here but live elsewhere. Also well under the national average are Butte County, 60 percent, Tehama County, 67 percent, Trinity County, 74 percent and Siskiyou County, 76 percent.
If Glenn County would come to par it would mean another $155 million of federal dollar to help pump the local engine.
California's failure to get even-handed treatment and our share of the pie has long been a subject delivered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mr. Reed snaps a right with the $2 million for his opponents basking in the Maxwell Fish Screen project and then notes that almost simultaneously, Mr. Herger signed the no earmarks pledge.
Well, the earmarks are popularized by the famous "Alaska Bridge to Nowhere."
What Mr. Herger hasn't pointed out, says the challenger, is that under the old rule no one would know about an earmark until it was approved. But the new congressional rule earmarks are public records as soon as the money designation hits ink. "That's why he signed the pledge," says Mr. Reed, adding, "and only 15 or so signed the pledge."
But here's the follow-through: "If he is reelected things here are going to get worse." Because, says Mr. Reed, Mr. Herger doesn't really serve the district.
"There's a clear way to get us up to the national average. Every single (federal) department has discretionary money ever department has a way to spend money where they want to it takes hard work on the part of the congressman."
Well, how does that come into play? "The congressman has to go back (to the departments), go back, go back, go back."
The congressman has to lobby the agencies?
Mr. Herger has inked only two bills through in 24 years and one of those in a BLM bill in partnership with Diane Feinstein, California's senior senator, says Mr. Reed.
"The biggest issue," Mr. Reed says, "is Mr. Herger voted 96 percent of the time the straight party line.
"The fact of the matter is the party line is sometimes alright and sometimes it is not and a congressman should be voting for what is best for the people, the district and the constituents."
What about the other four percent of Mr. Herger's votes?
"Absent or he hit the wrong button," says Mr. Reed with an indulgent smile and a little shake of the head.
What's Mr. Herger's staff doing if he just votes the party line, asks Mr. Reed. "There's no analysis if the boss is voting party line."
The lack of information at the Second Congressional District office startles Mr. Reed. He tells a story of insurance execs from Redding going to Washington last summer to "put in their two cents worth on what the healthcare reform bill looks like and why there was no provision for generic drugs. "Herger has no idea what they are," says Mr. Reed of the non-branded much lower priced medicines.
The Mirror has reviewed C-SPAN video of the House Ways and Means hearing on the differential of the Chinese Yuan to the dollar. At one point Mr. Herger interrupted Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner and went into a kind of questioning rant about a purported Obama VAT (value added tax).
After a time Mr. Herger was firmly and patiently told there are no such plans and another congressman asked that they return to the question of the Yuan, a vital topic for the deficit and trade imbalance.
Mr. Reed caught his breath and noted that Mr. Herger was in Marysville last week to take credit for a stimulus-funded levee project. But Mr. Herger voted against the stimulus.
Mr. Reed notes that Mr. Herger voted for big bank bailout TARP, even though he said his constituents were 100 to one against it. The TARP or Troubled Asset Relief Program, was signed by U.S. President George W. Bush on Oct. 3, 2008.
"I think the TARP was the right thing to do but if I thought my constituents were one hundred to one against it, I would have voted against it." Mr. Reed thinks "Small businesses are over regulated, big businesses under regulated."
On the prickly question of illegal immigration he is blunt, "We must secure our borders so the problem doesn't get worse."
While he opposes amnesty, Mr. Reed supports a path, not an easy path, he adds, for people in the country to become legal."
Finally, he is concerned that the Democratic base here in the North State is demoralized and wishes they'd get as fired up as he is.
That's the bell, then and the end of Round One.