Santa Rosans will have a new representative when the 113th Congress convenes in January. But our choice for the job isn't a stranger to local voters.
Mike Thompson represented most of Santa Rosa in the state Senate for eight years, and his district reached into the city for the first four years after the Saint Helena Democrat was elected to the House of Representatives in 1988.
Thompson continued to represent eastern Sonoma County when new lines were drawn following the 1990 census. Santa Rosa is once again in his district under lines drawn after the latest census by the state's independent redistricting commission.
True to his reputation as a tireless worker, Thompson is popping up all over the new 5th Congressional District — flipping pancakes at fundraising breakfasts, visiting with employers, announcing a new carpool program — as he gets reacquainted with old constituents and introduces himself to new ones.
In Washington, he is an effective legislator with a moderate voting record and assignments befitting his growing seniority, including seats on the Ways and Means and Intelligence committees.
Thompson has close ties to the House Democratic leadership, but he reaches across the aisle on issues important to his district, including support for California's wine industry. Despite the partisan squabbling that infuriates voters, Thompson has shown that it's possible to find common ground on issues such as rural health care and land conservation.
"It's not as bad as it was when they used to shoot each other," he quipped during a meeting with The Press Democrat Editorial Board.
Two Republicans also are on the June 5 ballot, financial planner Randy Loftin of Napa and accountant Stewart Cilley of Rohnert Park. Both are political newcomers who support a radical downsizing of the federal government and repeal of current income tax laws, replacing them with a national sales tax (Loftin) or a flat tax (Cilley). Neither is a match for mainstream North Bay voters.
The next Congress will face enormous challenges, including economic recovery, controlling budget deficits and, regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules, health care. Of the three candidates, Thompson is the most knowledgeable and best prepared to deal with this challenging agenda.
To address the deficit, Thompson is prepared to vote for "something that's close to Simpson-Bowles," a bipartisan plan that combines spending cuts and tax increases. On health care, he favors the insurance mandate ("Everybody should have skin in the game") in the Affordable Care Act. He also is a co-sponsor of a transportation funding bill that would boost employment in the construction trades while making highway and rail improvements needed for long-term economic growth.