Richard Pombo is a political lightning rod.
He raises the blood pressure of left leaning Democrats and gets the hearts beating of right leaning Republicans.
The fact he may gain the 19th District Republican Congressional seat nomination on Tuesday should give you pause. Not because he is campaigning for a seat Congress in a district he doesn’t live in. That is allowable under the constitution. And it is not because of his environmental views. Personally, I have no problem with his attempts to rein in environmental perfection and instead promote balanced environmental protection that includes elements such as common sense.
It has more to do with what the addiction people have for holding an elected office. It is a malaise that inflicts both Democrats and Republicans.
Pombo served as the 11th District Congressman and represented Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, Tracy, and nearby communities from 1993 to 2007.
Some people will never like Pombo. That’s just the way it is just like some people will never like Barbara Boxer.
But before Pombo went to Washington he had his feet firmly on the ground as a dairy farmer who got elected to the Tracy City Council.
It was as a councilman that Pombo cast the crucial vote to stop that city from expanding into the environmentally sensitive and agriculturally rich Delta.
Some hardcore environmentalists who would like to see Pombo go the way of the dodo bird may find that hard to believe. Pombo was then - and is today- trying to find a middle ground between abusing the environment and overreacting to the point it severely impacts humans trying to go about their business.
The best example was the farmer in Kern County who was facing federal prosecution for plowing a field without doing a full blown environmental study to see if it harbored an endangered rodent.
Pombo was the environmental lobby’s Public Enemy No. 1 when it came to oil drilling in Alaska long before anyone heard of Sarah Palin or suffered a severe heart attack when she uttered the infamous words, “drill, baby, drill.”
The real question we need to ask is why would anyone be so drawn to the Potomac that they gladly give up what made them a promising citizen turned public servant to ultimately become part of the permanent political cloth of Washington, D.C. People who run for elected office at the state and federal levels are butterflies when they start out with a lot of promise and optimism untainted by the political cesspool but then morph into moths that eat away at the very fabric of America.
It isn’t what they intend to become.
But how can you look at themsleves in the mirror each day and vote on bills that will impact the lives of millions of people they’ve never met - or haven’t even been born with - without reading and understanding each one? Instead they rely on executive summaries put together by ambitious underpaid young political zealots (or hacks) that often have no idea what a district a congressman represents physically looks like.
Pombo isn’t the only one by far caught up in the elixir of power. There are plenty of Democrats and Republicans who have fallen into the trap.
Perhaps that is the way it has to be with a nation of 309 million residents. It is a far cry from 2.5 million Americans in 1781 when your congressman went to Washington, D.C. for a few months and lived in virtual squalor while debating the vital issues of the day and then returned home to ply their trade to make a living alongside the people they represent.
Those having heart palpitations about Pombo should be careful with how enamored they get. The mess we are experiencing in Washington, D.C. - and Sacramento - isn’t an overnight thing. It didn’t all happen on Obama’s watch yet you can certainly say things have gotten worse even though there are those who love to blame everything going wrong today on the Bush Administration.
There is a lot of blame to go around. There are - unfortunately few - if any -white knights riding either elephants or donkeys. Any way you cut it Pombo was part of what got us to this point. That’s not saying he didn’t make headway on some things. It’s just that what Congress did from 1993 to 2007 obviously hasn’t worked out very well just like it hasn’t in the three years since.
What America needs is a return to true citizen politicians. How that can happen in a day and age where high-tech billionaires whining about how bad business conditions are in California can write personal checks to run lavish campaigns for governor is the $90 million question that could surpass $150 million by November.