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Thompson facing longshot challengers in congressional primary


Rep. Mike Thompson

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
Age: 52
Residence: Rohnert Park
Occupation: Certified public accountant, refuse removal service operator
Experience: Sonoma County Republican Central Committee
Party: Republican

Randy Loftin
Age: 69
Residence: Napa
Occupation: Tax and financial advisor
Experience: U.S. Army finance officer
Party: Republican

Mike Thompson
Age: 61
Residence: St. Helena
Occupation: Member of Congress
Experience: Former state senator, Army veteran
Party: Democratic

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

3 Responses to “Thompson facing longshot challengers in congressional primary”

  1. Keep It Simple says:

    This North Bay is like the old south. All democrat all elections. The entitlement group, large government employment, and a core of socialist extremists keep the party in power.

    The newspapers, schools, local government are all firmly in the leftist camp. High taxes, high spending, high public debt and dysfunctional government rule the day.

    This house of cards will come tumbling down when the entitlement groups funding is cut down to size and cannot be paid by the few taxpayers left to cover the bet.

    Tough times are ahead, but keep voting democrat and keep the government economy in the death spiral.

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  2. Big Fish says:

    @Kirstin. Good post but the political writers for regional newpapers are so liberal and biased no conservative would ever receive a fair evaluation. The newspapers such as the PD work hand in hand with their candidiates so they are not really journalists.Some of the Republicans who could possible run and present a sense of logic in the northcoats but know it’s not worth the trouble until some type of movement happens. The democrat corruption is obvious and Obama is such dismal failure perhaps the pendelum may be swinging back.
    Thompson is a very pro-illegal aliens because of the agriculture industry partically the wine growers. He’s their boy and they don’t care about the local working stiff and they got the money to keep they. Sonoma county is going down hill with just a few years of quality living left.

    Oddly I know many liberals who simply pretend to be liberal but think conservatively in their own lives. They are indoctrined from an early age and just vote D and anything to the left. More sadly they believe people like Solomon and bottoms up Woolsey are concerned about the military.

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  3. Kirstin says:

    In order for our country to prosper again and to restore better fidelity to the constitution and limited government, we the people need to turn out the vast majority of the incumbents. Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, most (not all, and there must be individual judgments, of course) elected officials are invested in perpertuating a disfunctional system that refuses to stop spending money we don’t have and refuses to recognize reasonable limits for exercise of power. Unless we vote these people out, we are destined to continue down the same destructive path.

    Mr. Thompson is not someone who will support the kind of major reform that we need to see in Washington D.C. Therefore, I hope the voters here will disregard his “D” and the “R” behind his opponents’ names. Don’t vote along party lines just as a matter of habit. Instead, please look at what each of the three candidates believes and what they will bring to the House. I hope the voters in this district will see the need for change and vote for either Mr. Loftin or Mr. Cilley.

    And, PD, while it is great that you are finally producing an article on this race, it would have been more helpful if you had published it before the absentee ballots had been sent out. I’m sure some folks have already marked and returned their ballots. Perhaps, had they had this information sooner, they might have voted differently. Timing IS important.

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