The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

So Close Yet So Far for David Harmer in CA-11


One of the guys I was really pulling for this cycle, David Harmer, concedes:

At 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 3, with 99% of precincts reporting, we led by 23 votes. Counting was stalled, so I went to bed. When I awoke two hours later, we trailed by 121 votes — making ours, at that time, the closest of any race for the House or Senate anywhere in the nation. As the counting of absentee and provisional ballots continued, the gap gradually grew. But not until three weeks after the election, just before Thanksgiving, did the Associated Press call the race. It was the second-to-last House race in the nation to be called. And not until four weeks after the election — this past Tuesday — did we have a complete count of all ballots cast.

The final results:

Jerry McNerney (Dem)115,361 48%

David Harmer (Rep)112,703 47%

David Christensen (AI)12,439 5%

Total 240,503 100%

The campaign team remains concerned about some aspects of the voting and counting processes. A future message will outline those concerns and offer recommendations for improvement. But the incumbent’s margin is large enough to make a recount unlikely to change the result, and the precinct-level data do not display the sort of anomalies that would justify a challenge. Accordingly, I have called Congressman McNerney to congratulate him on winning the election and to wish him well in his continued service. He accepted the call graciously and we had a cordial conversation. Some people wonder why I waited so long; others will wonder why I threw in the towel. Perhaps a few explanations are in order.


Having invested nearly two years of full-time and uncompensated effort in this endeavor, I was ready for a verdict on November 2. I knew that the race would be close, but I intended and expected to win. I was prepared and eager to serve. On the other hand, had we clearly lost, my disappointment would have been tempered by relief at returning to the normal routines of private life. What I hadn’t anticipated was neither of the above — a month of uncertainty. When you’ve given your all without attaining success, is any temptation more seductive than to quit?I can report firsthand that the Harmer family had already had enough. But we recognized that the campaign wasn’t ours alone; it belonged to everyone who had invested time, money, reputation, or heart in it.

I was a spokesman for tens of thousands of volunteers, donors, and voters, the advocate of their views and values, and the trustee of their political hopes. They merited my best efforts to ensure that their voices were heard and their votes counted. Among those urging me to hang in there was my friend Mick Mulvaney, who defeated House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt in South Carolina. “I will be watching,” he wrote. “I won my first race for office by 212 votes after 3 recounts and 1 lawsuit, so I understand a little of what you are going through.”

At New Member Orientation in Washington, D.C., I compared notes with others whose elections were undecided. While I was there, Joe Walsh’s race in Illinois was called in his favor; a recount confirmed Renee Ellmers’s win in North Carolina; Blake Farenthold maintained his lead in Texas; and Ann Marie Buerkle extended hers in New York. Other veterans of close races, like Steve Stivers of Ohio, encouraged me not to give up. Not only did the Republican freshmen offer moral support, many of them contributed generously to the recount fund. Key endorsers like Governor Mitt Romney did so as well.

Meanwhile, back at home, we had more volunteers than we could deploy to monitor the counting. I offer my wholehearted thanks to each of them, and to everyone else who participated in this enterprise, both before and after Election Day: the campaign co-chairs, endorsers, event hosts, donors, volunteers, interns, and staff. I also thank the reporters who covered the race and told our story. Ours looked, felt, and behaved like a winning campaign. The enthusiasm and intensity were on our side. But we were heavily outspent in the final stretch, and the barrage of attack ads drove enough voters to the third party to prove decisive. In a future message I’ll give a more detailed report of our performance. Meanwhile, please accept my appreciation for the confidence you’ve placed in me. It has been an honor to serve as your nominee.

Yours truly,

David Harmer

Tags: David Harmer


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