Republicans Face Long Odds in Northern California House Race

While a hotly contested congressional seat in upstate New York has generated national attention, a similar special election in Northern California has drawn little outside interest, even from within the state.

Democrats are hoping for an easy victory Tuesday in the 10th Congressional District, a heavily gerrymandered district where Democrats hold an 18-point registration edge over Republicans.

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who has been involved in state and national politics for 35 years, is trying to maintain the Democratic Party's control of the seat that was held previously by former Rep. Ellen Tauscher. Tauscher was named earlier this year to a State Department position.

Garamendi, a former state lawmaker and insurance commissioner, enjoys wide name recognition because of his many years in elective office and two failed runs for the Democratic nomination for governor. He is being challenged by Republican David Harmer, an attorney whose father is a former lieutenant governor.

Harmer, 47, is campaigning against excessive government spending and is hoping a message of fiscal conservatism will reach voters who are being hurt by the recession, no matter their party affiliation.

An upset is a longshot in a San Francisco Bay area district where voters overwhelmingly favored Barack Obama in last year's presidential race.

The district stretches across Contra Costa and Solano counties to the east and north of San Francisco, and includes small sections of Alameda and Sacramento counties. Nearly 70 percent of the district's voters are in Contra Costa County.

Garamendi, 64, has been playing up his reputation as a loyal Democrat who will support Obama administration policies. He will not vote in the election Tuesday because he lives just outside the district.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has mailed fliers for Harmer but has not contributed money directly to his campaign, according to campaign finance reports.

Candidates from the Green, American Independent and Peace and Freedom parties also are on the ballot.