Rep. Wally Herger (R)
California 2nd District
Rising 14,000 feet over low foothills and the Central Valley, visible for 100 miles, is the snow-capped volcanic cone of Mount Shasta, one of a string of (supposedly) burnt-out volcanoes up and down the Pacific Coast states. This is the far northern end of California, where truck traffic on Interstate 5 is the only reminder of the choked metropolitan areas where most of the state’s people live. This is lumber country mostly, where the mountains that rise on all sides—the Coast Range to the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the scattered mountains sealing off the Central Valley north of Redding—are carpeted with trees. It’s rugged, flannel-shirt, two-lane-road country that was left behind economically when Los Angeles and San Francisco boomed after World War II. North of Shasta, the tiny town of Weed became a logging center and a noted locale for racial integration a half-century ago, but the loss of jobs has led younger blacks and whites to move out. Farther south are the flat farm fields of the Sacramento Valley, spread across the 50 miles between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Range. Since the 1980s, this northern end of California has been attracting people, mostly young families who come here to raise their children in a small-town environment, but also retirees looking for a calm atmosphere and low cost of living.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of California covers most of this area. The district has three major population areas. One is Redding, south of Mount Shasta, where increased high-altitude snowfall has allowed the Whitney Glacier to defy global warming trends by growing in the past century, the only glacier to do so. The second is farther south, at the edge of the Sierra foothills, around the Butte County communities of Paradise and Chico, home to a state university campus and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In 2008, surrounding areas suffered devastating forest fires. Still farther south are the farm counties of Colusa, Yuba, and Sutter, not far north of Sacramento. The locally cultivated rice hybrids from Colusa County, the leading rice-producing county in the nation, are a lucrative export. From 2000 to 2007, the district had a 9% population increase, with Hispanics increasing from 14% to 17%. The region has a Democratic heritage but is culturally conservative, angry at the “diktats” of urban environmentalists. Until 1980, it elected rough-and-ready Democrats who pulled strings in Sacramento and Washington to build roads and dams. Since then, it has elected abstemious Republicans who have solidly conservative voting records and tend to local needs. George W. Bush won 62% of the vote here in 2004, and John McCain won 55% in 2008, their best showings in a northern California district.
Rep. Wally Herger (R)
Elected: 1986, 12th term.
Born: May 20, 1945, Yuba City .
Education: American River Comm. Col., A.A. 1967, CA St. U., 1968-69.
Family: Married (Pamela); 9 children.
Elected office: CA Assembly, 1980–86.
Professional Career: Rancher; Owner, Herger Gas Inc., 1969–present.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Wally Herger, a Republican first elected in 1986. He grew up in the farm country north of Sacramento, where he was a local farmer and rancher. He also owned a propane gas company. Herger married young, and his first marriage did not last. Then he met his present wife, Pamela, a nurse who like him was a Mormon who wanted a large family. The couple had three children from their first marriages and together had six more, although they mourned the loss of one child who died as a toddler. In 1980, he was elected to the California Assembly. Six years later, Herger was elected to the U.S. House after winning solid margins over the mayor of Redding in the primary and beating a Shasta County supervisor in the general.
|Wally Herger (R)||163,459||(58%)||($1,256,602)|
|Jeff Morris (D)||118,878||(42%)||($33,371)|
|Wally Herger (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (66%), 1998 (63%), 1996 (61%), 1994 (64%), 1992 (65%), 1990 (64%), 1988 (59%), 1986 (58%)
Herger has a solidly conservative voting record and has served quietly on the Ways and Means Committee, voting for balanced budgets and lower taxes. When federal budget deficits disappeared in the late 1990s, Herger was a leader of the battle to create “lockboxes” to shield the surpluses in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. That debate became moot with the return of big deficits. As chairman of the Human Resources Subcommittee, he helped write the Republican welfare law in 1996, which increased work requirements for recipients and incentives for states to reduce caseloads.
His advancement on the committee, however, has been slowed by more aggressive and charismatic Republicans. More junior lawmakers have twice leapfrogged him to take the top Republican post on the committee. In 2007, Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana jumped over him, with the leadership’s blessing, to become the ranking Republican. When McCrery retired two years later, Dave Camp of Michigan, a more aggressive party spokesman and campaign contributor, ascended to the top minority slot, with the support of Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. In 2009, Herger did become the ranking Republican on one of the most important subcommittees, the one responsible for health care policy. He has pledged to make health care more affordable for all Americans, and to keep medical decisions with patients and their doctors.
On local issues, Herger has tended to water projects and called for exemption of flood control programs from the Endangered Species Act. With Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon he proposed full compensation of farmers and related businesses that suffered damages from the Klamath River flooding, but he rejected environmentalists’ calls for management controls of the fisheries, which he called part of “an anti-agriculture agenda.” He helped to enact a program to aid about 750 counties that have suffered from a loss of revenue from timber sales.
Herger had been easily re-elected every two years, with more than 60% of the vote, until 2008, when he was held to a 58%-42% win by Democrat Jeff Morris, the Trinity County supervisor. Herger lost by 87 votes in Butte, the largest county, which has been growing with urban refugees. Democrat Morris criticized Herger’s depiction of environmentalists as “radical.”