Brown, Doolittle in heated congressional race
War and corruption charges have turned the race between Democratic challenger Charlie Brown and Rep. John Doolittle (R-Roseville) into one of the most grueling of the longtime politician’s career.
Brown, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force in his first election race, used plenty of ethics ammunition against the eight-term incumbent. While Brown hammered away at Doolittle’s alleged ties to criminal lobbyists, the Roseville Republican fired back about Brown’s ties to “liberals,” such as Sen. Barbara Boxer, reckoning Brown’s values do not reflect the 4th District’s.
The race between Doolittle and Brown is one of the most closely watched House races in the country.
Recent corruption charges in politics and in business, as well as the recent congressional page scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), is making some Republicans more vulnerable. Democrats need to gain 15 of the 435 seats Nov. 7 to win their first majority in the House since 1994. Support for the Republican-led Congress has reached its lowest point since that year, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed this week.
Doolittle has the edge in the 4th Congressional District that is 48 percent Republican and 30 percent Democrat. Brown has raised $756,758 for his campaign as of recent quarterly filings, with about $500,000 coming during the latest quarter, while Doolittle has raised $2.5 million. Doolittle’s campaign was buoyed by President George Bush’s appearance at an estimated $600,000 country club fundraiser in October.
War in Iraq also has fueled the race between the two Roseville residents, with Doolittle describing the war as a broader attack on terrorism and Brown as a politician who would “cut and run.” During a trip to Nevada City this week, he said he “still believes they will find the WMD” in Iraq.
Doolittle voted to allow wiretapping, weaken due process laws for terror suspects and continue harsh interrogation practices, all actions that Brown opposed.
Brown countered, “we need a new approach in Iraq” with the death toll of U.S. troops climbing to more than 2,750. He said the United States’ “perceived occupation” is “fueling sectarian violence” and advocated a “timetable for withdrawal.” His 26 years in the Air Force included tours in Vietnam and the Middle East and his son, Jeff, is set to return to Iraq for a fourth rotation.
At a debate in Rocklin, Doolittle assailed Brown for his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and his lack of condemnation of gay marriage. Appearing with Libertarian candidate Dan Warren at a Grass Valley forum, Brown said government should stay “out of the gun cabinet” and “out of the bedroom.”
In Nevada County, Doolittle has come under fire for losing touch with the electorate, and doing too little to protect the environment. Both candidates have supported logging in National Forest land running from Sacramento’s east suburbs through northeastern California.
The incumbent has not joined many House members, including some Republicans, to support a bill renewing the Clean Water Act.
Most of the barbs directed at Doolittle have been about his alleged ties to corruption scandals.
Doolittle’s campaign received $14,000 directly from criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and no less than $25,000 from military contractor Brent Wilkes and his company, according to filing statements.
This week, campaign finance records disclosed that he has paid a lawyer who specializes in white collar crime, David Barger of Virginia, $38,000 in recent months to talk to the Department of Justice about the Abramoff investigation. The Washington Post has reported that Doolittle’s office is one of those under investigation. Dealings with Abramoff landed Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) a conviction in October.
In addition, Doolittle’s wife, Julie, receives a 15 percent commission on some campaign funds that her husband raises, a practice that violates the ethical standards of some nonprofit groups, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
To reach Staff Writer Josh Singer, e-mail joshs@theunion. com or call 477-4234.
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