By Bryan M. Gold
The Elk Grove campaign office of Congressional candidate Dr. Ami Bera was buzzing with activity during the Citizen's visit.
The television show, Family Guy provided background noise. The Elk Grove resident's campaign manager was on the phone and stared into a computer screen.
On a wall were some of the press clippings that Bera has generated for being the Democratic nominee challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) for California's Third District seat in the U.S. Congress.
In another room, people who believe in their candidate were seated at desks containing phones and scripts. Most of the 375,000 touches have come via the phone, and Bera said new records are regularly set for the most calls in one day. When Bera entered the room, the chitchat stopped, just in case he had something to say.
The mounds of snacks and bottled drinks showed how the staff is preparing to bunker down for the long haul, which brought smiles to the faces of Bera's top lieutenants.
Yet, the Nov. 2 election is less than two weeks away, so for Bera and the more than 3,300 volunteers who put his campaign together in grassroots fashion, it's a sprint to the finish.
Bera said his campaign started with coffee chats, house parties, and inviting people into their living rooms for small gatherings.
The campaign, which kicked off as early as last year, has developed over the last 18 months to the point that the gatherings have grown in size, but Bera wants to get back to basics for the stretch run.
"That is how we are going to win this thing," he said. "In the last days, it's about neighbors talking with neighbors."
The message Bera wants the neighbors to pass along is that for change to happen in Washington, D.C., change has to happen locally in the Third District.
"I'm running for the House of Representatives to represent the needs of the people who live here," Bera said. "Let's have Congressional leadership that understands the need to rebuild America. I can fight for American workers. I can fight for the middle class. Let's make "Made in America' mean something."
During the wide-ranging interview with the Citizen, Bera cleared up two misconceptions of him portrayed by Lungren.
In a previous Citizen article, Lungren said that Bera wanted to let the $3.7 trillion in federal tax cuts -- known as the "Bush tax cuts" -- expire in January.
"We should make the middle-class tax cuts permanent. No one disagrees we should make the tax cuts permanent," Bera said. "Why can't Congress have the courage to act on the legislation? We should act on that. This is a failure of Congress to act."
In the same article and elsewhere, Lungren said that Bera was handpicked by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), in part because of her geographic proximity to Elk Grove and because of a sheer desire to have an incumbent Republican defeated at a time that the Democrats could lose control of the House.
"I know it's not true," Bera said. "It's an outright lie when Dan Lungren says Nancy Pelosi came and picked me."
He said that during the dog days of the campaign he will continue to make sure that people know him and his values as well as knowing Lungren and his values.
Bera will get the opportunity to do that Oct. 24 at the United Latinos Candidate Forum at the California State University, Sacramento. He had hoped to have a few debates with Lungren, but the challenger said his opponent declined or backed out of several opportunities.
Lungren's campaign recently stated that Bera did the same thing.
For Bera, whether it's a debate on the radio or with a group of people, he said he will continue to push for political change.
"For the people who live here in Elk Grove, they have a chance to send the message that the status quo is not OK," he said.