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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Doolittle in Deep Trouble

A new flurry of charges and investigations into those with ties to Abramoff have come forward in recent weeks, spawned it seems by a federal effort to get Abramoff himself to talk. Prosecutors last month in Miami, Florida said that they were prepared to reduce Abramoff's fraud sentence in exchange for him giving them the goods on a number of lawmakers who he had dealings with.

Roseville's John Doolittle had his home in Virginia raided by the FBI a few weeks ago. They were looking for papers from Doolittle's wife's home consulting business that received payments from Abramoff.

Doolittle's wife also drew tremendous scrutiny in the election last year when it came to light that Doolittle had hired her to be his fundraiser. The problem here is that she then took a normal fundraiser's fee, meaning that Doolittle and his wife pocketed a portion of the money from fundraising, raising a number of unseemly specters that led him in January to promise to cease the practice.

All of this leads to our conundrum. Last fall, Charlie Brown a retired Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, took on Doolittle in a spirited and vicious campaign riding against public dissatisfaction with the war and the specter of corruption that Doolittle so aptly embodied. In the end, Brown fell just short losing by a mere 7,000 votes and holding the incumbent under 50% with a 49-46 loss.

Charlie Brown has already announced he will seek election again. However, California's Fourth Congressional District is the most heavily Republican in the state. Had Doolittle resided in any other district in the state, he probably would have lost given his problems. A three point loss was an impressive showing.

However, last week, Doolittle announced he would temporarily step down from the power Appropriations committee in the House. This suggests that Doolittle is indeed in deep trouble. But it also leaves us with a tough conundrum.

In order for Charlie Brown to win, he almost certainly has to face Doolittle himself--a now wounded and likely ineffective representative. If Doolittle is forced to resign, a number of prominent and strong Republicans have already signaled they would move into the district and run. This is a district with a near 20 point Republican advantage in registration at 48-30. That would make for a near impossible race against someone not tarnished with the scandals of Doolittle. It does not seem likely that the war in Iraq would be enough even with the strong name recognition of Brown, to catapult him into office absent Doolittle's presence as the Republican nominee.

Republicans are already lining up for the prospect of taking that seat. The Flash Report nine days ago came out with a list. One hot and heavy rumor is that Conservative and anti-tax mogul Tom McClintock would move up to the district and run. McClintock is currently a state Senator in the conservative parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. McClintock recently ran for the Lt. Governor against John Garamendi and surprisingly narrowly lost by a 49-45 margin to the veteran and respected lawmaker.

McClintock would be vulnerable on the carpet bagging charge, he would also be vulnerable to the general dissatisfaction of the Iraq war. The question would then be whether a Republican would have to take on the negative coattails of the Doolittle scandal. As we saw in a number of close races in the fall, it's not clear that they would.

Thus it would appear that Charlie Brown's best opportunity to win the congressional seat would be the face the wounded John Doolittle and likely short of an indictment against Doolittle himself, that may be the most likely scenario anyway.

For more information on Charlie Brown's campaign, click here.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting