By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Two Republican newcomers are all that stand between Rep. Mike Thompson and an eighth straight term in Congress.
Thompson, a Democrat from St. Helena who has never lost an election, has more than $1.2 million in campaign cash.
His opponents in the June 5 primary — Stewart John Cilley of Rohnert Park and Randy Loftin of Napa — have less than $10,000 between them.
Democrats dominate the new 5th Congressional District, which includes Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma Valley, with 52 percent of registered voters, compared with 22 percent Republicans.
“I’m a real longshot, I know that,” said Loftin, 69, a tax and financial adviser who loaned his campaign $5,000.
“More than a longshot,” said Cilley, 52, an accountant and member of the Sonoma County Republican Central Committee who said he is under the $5,000 threshold for filing a campaign finance report.
Thompson, 61, who is undefeated in 10 elections since 1990, serving two terms in the state Senate and seven in Congress, said, “your contributions reflect the support you have in your district.”
Thompson reported $343,686 in donations from individuals and $581,264 from committees representing scores of business and labor groups through March 31.
He serves on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, known as a “juice committee” for the donations that flow to members.
Thompson said he will spend “whatever I need to get re-elected,” but did not cite an amount.
Thompson’s seniority on Capitol Hill is valuable, and he is a “rising star” among House Democrats, said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican Party policy analyst.
But his impact is blunted, Pitney said, by Republican control of the House and Thompson’s membership in the Blue Dogs, a coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats.
“If you are in the minority, you’re not going to do much legislating,” Pitney said, because majority leaders control the flow of bills to the House floor.
Thompson’s achievements in the past two years include enactment of the airline passengers bill of rights, securing $22 million for district programs and $45 million to combat grapevine threats, an aide said.
The Blue Dogs, whose ranks were decimated in the 2010 election, stand somewhat apart from the House’s liberal Democratic leadership under Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, Pitney said.
Democrats, at best, will pick up about half of the 25 House seats they need to regain the majority this year, he said.
Thompson said it will be “tough, no question about it,” but thinks Democrats can possibly get all the seats they need this year, and if not, “we will in 2014, absolutely.”
Meanwhile, he conceded, Democrats are getting scant cooperation from House Republicans. For example, a $109 billion highway bill approved on a bipartisan vote in the Senate — sponsored by California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer — hasn’t come to a House vote, he said.
The Blue Dogs, whittled down to 25 from 46 after the last election, are expected to lose more members this year. But Thompson said the coalition, which started small in 1994, still plays a role in Democratic circles by advocating “fiscal responsibility.”
Cilley and Loftin, both seeking public office for the first time, said government spending is out of control.
“We spend too much; I believe we tax too much,” Loftin said.
He advocates gradual increases in the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages to keep both systems going without tax increases.
Loftin, who was endorsed by the California Republican Party, would eliminate the Department of Education, curtail the Environmental Protection Agency and repeal or dilute regulations like the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
“Let the market produce what it can, and get the government out of the way,” he said.
Loftin would repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, replacing its broad mandates with programs focused on people who are now uninsured.
Cilley, who calls himself a “constitutional conservative,” said his candidacy was prompted by the health care law, an example of government overreaching that “forces people to buy a product,” he said.
Cilley, whose business mostly handles tax returns, said he would like to eliminate the income tax by repealing the 16th Amendment and replace it with a national consumption tax of 3 to 4 percent on all goods and services.
Taxing income is wrong because it “punishes people for earning money,” he said.
If the income tax remains, Cilley said he favors eliminating corporate income taxes and setting a fixed personal income tax rate with no exemptions, such as mortgage interest, charitable donations and and property taxes.
Cilley said he would eliminate minimum wage standards “to stimulate jobs” and do away with the federal Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce.
Under California’s new top-two, open primary system, one of the Republicans will face Thompson in the November general election.
Stewart John Cilley
Residence: Rohnert Park
Occupation: Certified public accountant, refuse removal service operator
Experience: Sonoma County Republican Central Committee
Occupation: Tax and financial advisor
Experience: U.S. Army finance officer
Residence: St. Helena
Occupation: Member of Congress
Experience: Former state senator, Army veteran
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.