California Democrat McNerney won’t seek re-election, opening seat to Rep. Josh Harder

·4 min read
REED FUJII/The (Stockton) Record

Rep. Jerry McNerney, the long-time Democratic representative for areas surrounding Stockton in the San Joaquin Valley, will not seek re-election in his home district at the end of his term, his office announced.

“I will keep working for the people of my district throughout the remainder of my term and look forward to new opportunities to continue to serve,” McNerney said in a release.

McNerney’s decision not to run in California’s 9th Congressional District opens the door for Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, to run for re-election in a fairly safe Democratic seat. It holds San Joaquin County in a stretch from Collierville to Manteca and Tracy.

Harder’s seat centered on Stanislaus County changed significantly through California’s once-a-decade redistricting process. He had been representing parts of San Joaquin County that are set to be in what would be McNerney’s district.

“Jerry, thank you for your incredible service to our community,” Harder said in a release following McNerney’s announcement. “Today, I’m humbled to share I will be running for reelection in CA-9 which encompasses parts of mine and Jerry’s districts. More than 150 years ago, my great-great-grandpa joined a wagon train to California and settled in Manteca to start a peach farm and raise his family.”

Harder leaves the 13th Congressional District that holds much of his hometown of Turlock, parts of Modesto and Merced. It is rated as a tighter election by expert analysts, though one that leans Democratic.

Another opening for a Democrat?

That means another moderate Democrat might make a run for the open seat representing Turlock and Merced.

Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray, who has represented the assembly district holding Merced since 2012, announced his candidacy for the 13th Congressional District with dozens of local, state and national endorsements, including of Democratic Rep. Jim Costa.

“For nearly a decade, I have had the distinct privilege of representing my hometown and the communities I love in the State Assembly,” Gray said in an announcement. “Together we fought to protect our water from the State Water Grab, increase access to health care for our underserved communities, and improve our quality of life by reducing crime and creating jobs.”

“Those fights were not always easy, but I am proud to say that we won a lot more often than we lost. Now I am asking for the opportunity to bring that fight to Washington,” Gray said.

McNerney is one of 28 Democrats to announce retirement plans as Republicans are poised to take control of the House in 2022. Typically, the president’s party loses seats in midterm elections, a trend that gives Republicans an advantage this year.

“No one wants to run as a House Democrat. Jerry McNerney is making the smart decision to quit instead of watching Democrats lose their majority,” National Republican Congressional Committee Spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said following his announcement.

McNerney’s tenure

McNerney, D-Stockton, was first elected to Congress in 2006, a year when Democrats rode a wave of discontent with Republicans and won control of the United States House of Representatives. He unseated incumbent Republican Richard Pombo of Tracy.

Since then, McNerney, 70, has faced only a handful of close elections in the San Joaquin Valley — his tightest contest was in 2010, when Republican challenger David Harmer, an attorney, gathered nearly 47% of the votes to McNerney’s 48%. Independent candidate David Christensen garnered the remaining 5%.

Prior to coming to Congress, McNerney created a company that manufactured wind turbines. He maintains the company helps save millions of barrels of oil.

Today, McNerney is a member of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which writes legislation regarding business regulation and policy, health care, telecommunications, energy and environment.

During the current Congress, McNerney has been a reliable supporter of President Joe Biden. McNerney has voted against party positions on key votes 0.7% of the time, according to ProPublica.

He’s been one of those House members who rarely draws national media attention with controversial legislation or dramatic statements.

Early in his tenure, he successfully helped push through legislation to help veterans, notably a 2013 effort that permitted them to retain benefits when the government shut down.

The next year, as reports surfaced about dangerous conditions at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, McNerney called for its secretary, Eric Shineski, to resign.

McNerney said he wanted “new leadership to initiate an investigation that will first, get to the bottom of these allegations, second, punish anyone who put our veterans at risk, and most importantly ensure that our veterans are getting the timely health care they deserve,”

Shineski resigned a few days later after similar calls from other congressional lawmakers.

“I am very proud of the many accomplishments that my staff and I have achieved in Congress, including the creation of a major veteran’s health center facility in San Joaquin County, providing outstanding help for constituents with federal agencies, and securing major investments in infrastructure and public safety, broadband, education, childcare, and health care access,” McNerney said in the announcement.

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