Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
California 11th – Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) is seeking a 3rd term
Primary: June 8, 2010
Location: Central California; San Joaquin Valley/Inland East Bay
Days until Election Day: 93
Washington (CNN) - Republicans hope the third time will be the charm in their efforts to defeat Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney. He has been on the Republican list of targets from the moment he scored an upset victory in 2006 over seven-term Rep. Richard Pombo, one of 22 GOP incumbents to go down in defeat that year. McNerney won with 53 percent of the vote compared to 47 percent for Pombo, a surprisingly comfortable margin considering he had won only 39 percent against Pombo in 2004 and that Pombo had won each of his previous re-election bids with at least 58 percent. In 2008, McNerney improved on his 2006 performance and was re-elected with 55 percent.
In Congress, McNerney voted for his party's top policy priorities, including the health care bill, the Obama administration's stimulus plan, financial reform legislation, and the so-called "cap and trade" energy proposals. Overall, he has supported the White House position on key votes 93 percent of the time during Obama's first year in office, according to CQ.
The Republican nominee this year is David Harmer, an attorney and son of a former GOP state senator who briefly served as then-Gov. Ronald Reagan's lieutenant governor. Harmer most recently ran for Congress in 2009 in a special election to replace Democrat Ellen Tauscher in the neighboring 10th district. He lost to Democrat John Garamendi, then the sitting lieutenant governor, receiving 43 percent of the vote. This year, he beat a crowded GOP field in the June primary with 36 percent of the vote, about nine points ahead of the second-place finisher. The national Republican establishment has gotten behind Harmer, putting him on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" list, a distinction reserved for the party's most promising prospects.
McNerney has raised $1.7 million so far in the campaign and had $1.2 million in the bank as of June 30. Harmer has raised $789,000, of which $233,000 is in the bank.
California's 11th district is located in the San Joaquin Valley and the inland East Bay areas, not a far drive from the San Francisco and Oakland areas. It includes parts of San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties in central California. In 2008, Barack Obama carried the district with 54 percent, less than the 61 percent he won statewide. Four years earlier, President Bush won the district with 54 percent, while John Kerry won the state.
In his three previous runs for this seat, McNerney has steadily improved his record at the polls, winning 39 percent in 2004, 53 percent in 2006, and 55 percent in 2008. However, the central California valley where this district is located tends to be much more Republican than the rest of the state, which would make this seat worth monitoring any time a Democratic incumbent is on the ballot. McNerney did well in 2006 and 2008, but he was swimming with a national tide favoring Democrats. That's an advantage he won't have in 2010.