The contender

Getting to know Chico’s Audrey Denney; plus, the longest council meeting in years

If you want to get a pretty good handle on Rep. Doug LaMalfa’s congressional challenger, look no further than this week’s cover story. Retired CN&R Editor Robert Speer sat down with Audrey Denney a few weeks ago, attended campaign events and chatted with supporters, including the local pastor-turned-politico who is managing her campaign.

What he and Denney lack in political experience, they make up for in intuition, dedication and hard work. Indeed, as you’ll read in Speer’s story, they are running an impressive campaign. It’s a grassroots effort, since Denney has pledged to not accept corporate political action committee (PAC) money.

I assigned a reporter to cover Denney’s campaign kickoff event at the start of the year and watched candidate forums prior to the primary as well as news reports from then until now, but I’m happy that Speer was willing to take on this assignment. For working parents like me who don’t have much time to get out to a lot of functions, it brings a new depth to the conversation surrounding her candidacy.

Recently, I tagged along with Meredith J. Cooper, who was meeting Denney to take the photo you see on cover. I needed to ask some fact-checking questions, but this cynical gen-Xer wanted to see for myself how Denney comes across in person. You know, to see what she’s really like.

I asked a few questions I’d been curious about. For example, how did a lifelong Episcopalian end up at the local Presbyterian church? And how was she reaching the hearts and minds of Republicans in the conservative-heavy District 1?

Answer 1: She ended up at the church next to Chico State when she was a student there because a couple of friends attended regularly. Answer 2: She’s a former registered Republican, so she identifies with the concerns of that voting bloc.

Denney seemed extraordinarily genuine and down-to-earth. Earnest is the word that comes to mind. I came away with that impression of Brian Solecki, too; he’s the aforementioned campaign manager. Should Denney win, one of her plans is to open a local district office that also serves as a space community groups could reserve for all sorts of gatherings, he told me. Meeting with constituents and serving their interests would be a top priority.

Here in Chico at least, residents are hungry for more interaction with our congressional representative. The question is whether Denney can pull enough GOP and independent votes. It won’t be easy—I rounded up some voter registration stats for the cover story (check them out on page 22). But if anyone’s capable of doing so, it’s Denney. Reflecting on our current congressman’s three terms in office, she by far is giving him the biggest run for his (corporate PAC) money.

In other political news: Pay special attention to Ashiah Scharaga’s report on this week’s Chico City Council meeting on page 11. It was another doozy. The short version is that the conservatives rushed through approval of plans for one of the largest housing developments in decades. The four of them, plus left-leaning Randall Stone, also tossed an airport commissioner from his post. His name is Steven Breedlove, and he so happens to have penned this week’s guest commentary. Check it out.