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Election 2010: California's 3rd Congressional District

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(Elk Grove, CA)
Monday, November 1, 2010

As Ami Bera goes door to door one afternoon in Elk Grove, you might mistake him for a Tea Party candidate.

Bera: "I'm not a career politician.  This is my first run at public office.  I'm fed up and I'm frustrated.  And I feel the same way you do.  Let's get back to a government that works for us."

Or a populist Democrat.

Bera: "We've got to fight and have policy that fights against corporate America and fights for the middle class."

Bera is 45.  He's Indian-American.  And he's worked as the Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County and associate dean of admissions for the UC Davis School of Medicine.  He's running as an outsider - from the left, not the right.  He says the health care overhaul is a start, but doesn't do enough to hold down costs.  And as for whether to extend the Bush tax cuts?

Bera: "We should have middle class tax cuts that are permanent, but right now, the Republicans are holding that hostage, Dan Lungren's holding that hostage, because they want to fight for the middle third - the tax cuts for the richest 1-to-2 percent of Americans."

Bera has outraised Lungren - in part by tapping a large donor base in the Indian-American community - and thinks he has a shot at an upset.  President Obama narrowly won the historically Republican district in 2008.  To push back, Lungren is turning to a familiar theme that has boosted conservatives throughout the country this year.  Here's one of his TV ads:

Lungren, in his TV ad: "Friends, neighbors, people I don't even know are concerned about losing their freedom.  And I haven't heard that word used as often in my lifetime.  And I think that's what a lot of people think."

Lungren has a long career in elected office.  He's represented Southern California in Congress, and been the state's attorney general.  He ran for governor in 1998 but lost to Gray Davis.  In a recent interview on Capital Public Radio's Insight, Lungren painted himself as a reliable conservative.

Lungren: "I'm one of those who's worked for smaller government, less taxation, less regulation, the opportunity of people to be the best they can be in this world."

He wants to repeal and replace the health care overhaul and extend the Bush tax cuts.  And he says Ami Bera's vision is far too similar to that of President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Lungren: "If you look at their solutions, they are larger government, larger taxes, larger regulation, less trust of the people.  And I just don't think that's where people want to go.  Two years ago, they made a statement - they wanted change.  They did not want the change they've seen."

The 3rd congressional district stretches from Amador, Alpine and Calaveras counties in the Gold Country to Sacramento-area communities like Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Carmichael, plus a bit of Solano County.  Republicans have a three-point registration edge over Democrats - which could give Lungren the upper hand on Tuesday.

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