ROSEVILLE, Calif. — “It’s going to be a long night,” Charlie Brown told a TV reporter at about 11 p.m. at his campaign headquarters at the Roseville Opera House on Tuesday.
Was Brown ever right. Making his second bid to take the 4th Congressional District seat for the Democrats, he appears to have come agonizingly short against State Sen. Tom McClintock. Brown’s statement came shortly after his campaign spokesman Todd Stenhouse had gotten up and told the crowd they had a good chance to make up the deficit.
“It’s only a 600-vote spread, and they haven’t counted Lake Tahoe yet,” Stenhouse said. “I hear they kind of like us up there.”
Half a mile away at the Sierra View Country Club, McClintock supporters said essentially the same thing about their candidate. McClintock’s communications director , Bill George, noted that many of the more rural parts of the district had yet to be counted. CD 4 runs east from suburban Sacramento into Placer and El Dorado counties.
That count jumped around all night. The 600 vote lead jumped to 700, then dropped to 237. As of Wednesday morning, the California Secretary of State’s Web site listed a 451 vote lead for McClintock.
McClintock declined to comment on the race on Tuesday night, noting that the results were not final. But several supporters did for him.
David Wolfe, legislative director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said that McClintock might be insulated from some of the outrage that cut into GOP numbers in Congress and the state legislature.
“Tom’s record has been sterling on tax issues,” Wolfe said.
While some Republicans in Congress have voted repeatedly to increase the size of government, McClintock is a staunch small government conservative from the fiscal libertarian wing of the party. George noted that McClintock made a big push on two issues of concern to the district where he held the opposite position as Brown—McClintock opposed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill, and supported Prop. 8, the California ballot initiative to remove the right of gay couples to marry.
Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said the “small government” message McClintock carries would be the “foundation of Republicans to rebuild the party.” He said Brown had taken positions on energy and fiscal policy that were well to the Left of the district.
“If you look at his campaign in the primary and in the general election, he’s like two different candidates.”
But one of the overall themes of this year’s election was the standard political orthodoxy is coming into question. This could be seen at Brown’s party, which featured numerous people in military clothing. This included Robert Littlejohn, a former submarine crewman who wore a desert camo jacket and a button reading “Charlie’s Screaming Hooligans.”
This was reference to a statement by the man currently in the seat, Republican John Doolittle, who referred to Brown supporters at a 2006 debate as “screaming hooligans.” Doolittle beat Brown by four points to win an ninth term that year, but declined to run again after coming under an ethics investigation for his alleged involvement in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal.
“I was a Republican for 24 years, from 1980 to 2004,” Littlejohn said, responding to the idea the military veterans traditional skew towards the GOP. “Then I had enough of it.”
Littlejohn has a lot of company, said Don Harper, the leader of the group Veterans for Brown. His group more than doubled in size between 2006 and 2008, from 30 members to 70.
McClintock is a “chickenhawk,” Harper said, who failed to land punches against Brown for his allegedly wearing his old Air Force uniform at an anti-war protest where a dummy of a U.S. soldier was allegedly hung in effigy. Harper compared Iraq to the war both he and Brown served in, Vietnam. Brown, an Air Force Academy graduate, was a helicopter rescue pilot in that conflict. Harper said he was a Marine rifleman squad leader, serving two tours from 1967 to 1969—including a battle where his unit of 40 men was overrun by a force ten times their size, leaving half the squad dead and most of the rest wounded.
Harper lambasted McClintock for his position of initially opposing the Iraq War but saying we have to win now that we’re there. He challenged McClintock to come up with some scenario under which Iraq War could be “won,” saying the GOP candidate didn’t understand war.
“The only thing he’s served, in my book, is dinner,” Harper said.