Dems line up to take on Herger

Before Wally Herger begins his 23rd year representing California’s Second Congressional District, he could face a tougher-than-usual challenge in this year of “change.”

The primary election is in June, and several Democrats have thrown their names in the ring. Some are repeat attempters; for others, it’s their first go-around with Herger.

Jeff Morris, who lives in Weaverville and is a Trinity County supervisor, is one of the rookies. He discussed his bid last Thursday (Feb. 21) at the Democratic Action Club meeting in a conference room at the Chico City Council Chambers.

Former candidates Mike Johnson, who lost to Herger in 2002 and 2004, and AJ Sekhon, who in 2006 garnered 33 percent against Herger’s 66 percent of the vote, both have filed papers to run in this heavily Republican district.

Speaking to his fellow Democrats, Morris listed his accomplishments as a supervisor. In three years, he said, he helped save a failing hospital, restored the county’s bond rating and expanded broadband Internet service.

“We’re moving forward [in Trinity County],” Morris said. “[But in Congress] we’ve been languishing for too long.”

Under the “permanent representation” of Herger, who has been “in lockstep with the administration,” the U.S. has forgotten the meaning of diplomacy, seen health care put on “life support” and, just recently with the meat recall, seen that a healthy food supply cannot be maintained, Morris jabbed.

“The problem starts with the folks we elect to office,” he said.

Sekhon could not agree more.

“We live in one of the most neglected districts,” he said over the phone. “Herger does nothing beyond blindly supporting the administration.”

Herger’s “limited education” means his committee membership is limited, which prevents him from bringing jobs to the area, added Sekhon, a practicing doctor who has also graduated from law school.

Sekhon, who is Punjabi by heritage and a Sikh by religion, says his education and knowledge of Eastern culture give him a leg up on both Herger and his competition within the Democratic Party. Morris says his experience and ability to achieve as an elected official give him the edge. (Johnson is a Chico native and Chico State graduate who, at least when he last ran, was a teacher.)

Still, this is politics, and Sekhon knows it will take lots of money to beat Herger. He raised more than $200,000 in 2006 and plans on raising $500,000 this time.

“Anyone who can’t raise 500 grand shouldn’t run,” he said. “Herger has that money—at least $1 million.”

Whether Democratic voters pick Johnson, Morris, Sekhon or a yet-to-file wild card, a combination of a ripe political climate, generous finances and a little luck will be necessary for a change.