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East Bay Democrat McNerney Faces Strong GOP Challenge In Redrawn District

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(L-R) Rep. Jerry McNerney, Ricky Gill (Campaign photos)

(L-R) Rep. Jerry McNerney, Ricky Gill (Campaign photos)

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STOCKTON (KCBS) – Ricky Gill, a young Republican who grew up in the Central Valley, will run against Rep. Jerry McNerney for Congress in a in a district whose newly drawn boundaries forced the incumbent Democrat to move from Pleasanton to Stockton.

Gill tallied a respectable 39 percent of the vote in the District 9 primary on Tuesday, the first so-called blanket primary where the top two winners face off in the general election regardless of party affiliation.

“My total, combined with the other Republican in the race, would have easily cleared McNerney by three points,” Gill said.

Campaign 2012: Bay Area, National Election Results

The 25-year-old son of immigrants from India and Uganda has served on the California Board of Education and earned a law degree from UC Berkeley. He also speaks Spanish.

“It’s an eclectic background,” he said, that’s also “an all-American story.”

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

There’s no guarantee that every voter who cast a ballot for Republican John McDonald would vote Gill in the general election, said Lauren Smith, spokeswoman for Congressman Jerry McNerney.

“To suggest all voters who had voted for John McDonald would then in turn support a 25-year-old student who hasn’t worked a day in his life is a pretty far stretch,” Smith said.

McNerney is not the only incumbent Democrat facing a serious challenge in November. Fremont Rep. Pete Stark won less than 42 percent of the vote Tuesday, and must prevail against fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell to win a 20th term in Congress.

But Gill’s insurgent campaign has garnered national attention because the seat could change parties. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said holding onto California’s Ninth District would be essential if Democrats are to regain control of the House.

The district now includes parts of eastern Contra Costa County, San Joaquin County, and southern Sacramento County.

“And I’m the local guy in the race,” Gill said.

“I’m the one from the Valley. My opponent is from the Bay Area and he’s going to struggle to bear that burden of proof.”

McNerney’s campaign counters that President Obama carried the newly drawn district by 18 points, making the district an uphill race for any Republican challenger.

“Congressman McNerney has represented this region for five and a half years and he knows the people and the issues,” Smith said, including the toll high unemployment and foreclosures have taken on the economy.

Gill said he would target moderate Democrats and independent voters to try and prevent McNerney from winning a fourth term in Congress.

McNerney has fended off challengers before, and Tuesday’s poll numbers indicate he will once again be in a competitive race, said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst at the Rothenberg Political Report.

“There is certainly fertile ground for people there that are looking for an alternative,” she said, particularly for an “especially intriguing candidate” such as Gill.

“He just turned 25 last month, the Constitutional age to be in Congress.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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