May 25, 2014

10th congressional race in June a tuneup to November

Two well-funded candidates in the 10th Congressional District -- Republican incumbent Jeff Denham and Democratic challenger Michael Eggman -- vow to work across party lines for the public good.

The third candidate in the June 3 primary, Democrat Mike Barkley, is a self-described progressive who lacks a large war chest.

The top two finishers regardless of party will move on to the Nov. 4 general election in a district that takes in all of Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County.

As of April 4, voter registration was 39.6 percent Republican and 38.0 percent Democratic. The district has a sizable number of unaffiliated voters who could tip the race to either party.

Barkley, 68, is a Manteca resident who finished fourth in a five-man contest for the seat in the 2012 primary.

He is trained as a certified public accountant and lawyer and has worked as a computer programmer and farmer.

Barkley declined The Modesto Bee's request for an interview, but he makes no secret of where he stands. His campaign website lists positions on hundreds of topics, mainly in support of labor, immigrants, manufacturing, and spending on education and health.

Eggman, 49, is the brother of state Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton. He grew up on a Turlock-area farm where his family raised almonds and bees and he is now a commercial beekeeper. He said jobs are his top priority.

"That's the biggest issue in the district and in the Central Valley -- the employment issue and the economic issue," he said. "People are struggling here. They want to work."

Denham, 46, has served a pair of two-year terms in the House of Representatives, after eight years in the state Senate.

"People in our community know who I am, which is why in the last two election cycles, (Democrats) have had to find someone from far away to run against me," he said.

In 2012, it was Jose Hernandez, a former astronaut who moved from Houston back to his native northern San Joaquin Valley to run. The reference also was to Eggman, whose residency has been questioned by the GOP.

Eggman said his main home is the Turlock-area farm where he was raised, but he also has an out-of-district home in Kingsburg, so his wife can more easily commute to Los Angeles for her flight attendant job. The Constitution requires only that House candidates live in the state in which the district is located.

About 40 percent of the 10th District's residents are Latino, so it's no suprise immigration is a top issue.

Eggman notes that his mother's family came from Mexico and his father is from the Dust Bowl region. Denham married into a Latino family and has been pushing for immigration reform.

Denham had $1.5 million on hand for his campaign in the most recent Federal Election Commission filings.

Eggman reported $426,665 and Barkley just $351.

Denham and Eggman expanded on their views in recent interviews.

Jeff Denham

The incumbent originally was from the Salinas area, where he co-founded a company providing plastic containers for agriculture. He now lives in Turlock and grows almonds.

Denham last week urged the House to advance part of his immigration package, a measure that would provide a pathway to citizenship for people who were brought to the United States illegally as children and then serve in the military.

"I think that it would break the logjam so we can address other issues," Denham said, referring to improved border security, a streamlined system for guest workers and steps toward citizenship for other responsible immigrants.

Denham said the federal government should help boost water storage in the Central Valley, including the proposed Sites and Temperance dams and small increases to New Melones, McClure and other reservoirs.

As chairman of a subcommittee that oversees railroads, Denham has been critical of the high-speed-rail system planned for California. He said it needs to revert to the far-less-costly system approved by the state's voters.

Denham cited his work in selling off surplus federal property to help balance the budget. He said the budget effort overall requires dealing with the long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare in ways that do not harm vulnerable people.

Denham, who served in the Air Force for 16 years, also noted his work on behalf of veterans. He got a bill passed that recognizes their military training as a step toward getting federal licenses.

Michael Eggman

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee signaled that Eggman could be a viable candidate by naming him to its "Emerging Races" list. That's a tier below the "Red to Blue" list but still could mean party support for a bid to flip the 10th in November.

Eggman said he hears from farmers as he travels the state in his beekeeping business, including complaints about regulations and paperwork.

"It's almost like you need a CPA now to run a small farm," he said. "You used to do it on your kitchen table."

Eggman supports increased water storage, along with reclamation, desalinization and improved watershed management.

He said immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for people who have abided by the law since they arrived, as well as a streamlined means for bringing in guest workers and enhanced border security.

He said he would work in a bipartisan way to create jobs via support of small businesses and reforms of the tax code.

The candidate said the state's high-speed-rail system needs to follow the plans approved by voters.

Eggman supports an increase in the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour over the next three years; California already is raising it to $9 in July and $10 in 2016.

Eggman cast himself as a Democrat willing to cross the aisle, following in the footsteps of former Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Gary Condit, D-Ceres.

"If you want to put a label on me, call me a Valleycrat," he said. "They have a long tradition in the Valley. They caucus with the Democrats, but they look out for the Valley."

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