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California Rep. Ellen Tauscher accepts State Department post, setting off political scramble to replace her

March 24, 2009 |  8:51 am

California Rep. Ellen Tauscher campaigns to repeal the military's

Now that Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Alamo) has accepted a position in Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department, the race is on to fill her seat from California's 10th Congressional District, just east of the Bay Area but more middle-of-the-road than neighboring districts..

Early money is on state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, who said he is ready to rumble as soon as Tauscher is confirmed by the Senate to be undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.

“If the seat opens up, I am going to run,” he told the newspaper The Hill. “My hesitation is out of respect for Ellen. When she’s comfortable with it, then I’ll officially do it.”

DeSaulnier is close to Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) who can help in the fundraising department (both are seen above at a rally where Tauscher urged a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy).  And DeSaulnier can tap into the local grass-roots operation that supported Barack Obama.

But Republicans are hungry to challenge him. Although the seat has gone Democratic since Tauscher defeated Republican Rep. Bill Baker in 1992, Republicans see an opportunity in the special-election campaign -- probably to be held in September -- to send a message in Washington and Sacramento about the perils of raising taxes.

As Human Events noted this morning, DeSaulnier has been at the forefront of efforts to raise taxes on  Californians to deal with the state's budget crisis. Obama did carry the district last fall by a 2-to-1 margin last November, but Republicans note that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won by 16 points in his 2006 reelection bid, and special elections usually draw a small electorate, favoring strong local candidates.

Former San Francisco 49ers tight end Brent Jones has been mentioned as a possible candidate. But political handicappers are putting serious money on Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf (who has considerable name recognition as a four-time countywide elected official) and attorney Tom Del Beccaro, vice chairman of the state GOP, who regularly appears in ads for the Republican cause and is considered one of the party's best communicators.

Tauscher meanwhile put out a statement warning that confirmation is not a sure thing, although as far as we know she has no "skeleton-in-the-closet" tax problems.

The confirmation process for senior posts in government is fraught with uncertainty and can take weeks, if not months. My staff and I will continue to work on the issues and challenges facing the 10th District and our nation, including growing the economy, making health care more affordable, developing a green energy policy, repairing our infrastructure, easing congestion and improving the quality of life for families. We will do that with the same level of energy and commitment as when I was first elected in 1996.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Joanna Jhanda / Bay Area News Group

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