Wally’s all washed up and ready to go

I met with with Congressman Wally Herger, R-Chico,  dozens of times during the 10 years I worked at some local newspaper where I was its opinion columnist and part of its editorial board.

I don’t recall Herger ever coming alone. He always had a handler (my term) with him; usually Herger’s field representative Dave Muerer, a bright guy who’s also a humor writer, mainly Christian-based books about being a father and husband.

More than once it occurred to me that Muerer should be the one in the congressman’s seat, not Herger, but I could never picture Herger doing Muerer’s job, since it’s pretty demanding.

I often left those meetings shaking my head in disbelief that someone with so little hustle and presence and curiosity and drive as Herger could represent our district. Decade after decade.

Meanwhile, meeting after meeting Muerer sat patiently, mostly quietly, at the ready to clarify something or fill in a blank for Herger, even to the point of supplying vocabulary.

Herger: “It’s not, it’s not … what’s that I like to say, Dave?”

Muerer (as if he’d answered this question a thousand times): “Mutually exclusive.”

Herger: “That’s right. It’s not mutually exclusive.”

Don’t get me wrong. Herger’s a pleasant enough guy. He’s got a golly-gee-whiz earnestness and eyebrows that raise almost as high as his voice as he talks and talks and talks and talks in circles without ever giving a concrete solution or original idea that might benefit our north state and our people.

Herger reminds me of someone’s simple, kindly, retired uncle, a fellow you bump into at family reunions and hope you don’t get stuck sharing a picnic table with him.

I never left a Herger encounter that I didn’t wonder, sweet Jesus, how does this guy stay in office?

Of course, I knew the answer then and I know it now. So do you.

Herger’s a Republican congressman in a Republician-dominated district. Pigs would fly before his party replaced him. Snowballs would survive in Redding’s heat before even the best-qualified, most-intelligent Democrat challenger could win a race against Herger. Traditionally in our district, it’s less about the best person and more about the controlling party.

If you consider the news that even some die-hard Republicans plan to vote for Barack Obama, this election season may bring the precedent-setting voting results we’ve long awaited. This could end up the first time in decades when Herger, one of the most politically impotent politicians around, is voted out of his district, free to limp off into the sunset.

It’s about time. Herger has been in office 11 terms – that’s 22 years, nearly a quarter of a century. What has Herger done for us in that time? I’ll tell you. Pretty much nothing.

Can’t blame him, I guess. Where’s the incentive to bust one’s butt if one is continually handed his job on a silver platter whether he performs well or not. Why bother? He’s enjoyed unwavering job security. Until now.

Jeff Morris may derail Herger’s gravy train.

As my colleague Kelly Brewer pointed out, Morris is one impressive candidate with an equally impressive record.

These were among my thoughts Tuesday night as I watched Morris and Herger debate on KIXE (or KXIE, as it’s known in Hergerland).

By the debate’s end, I was more convinced than ever that Morris is the obvious best choice for our district.

To be fair, Herger showed better during Tuesday’s debate than usual. However, he also sound heavily coached, right down to the “all of the above” Palinisms. But alas, it’s been the same old same old from Herger at these forums and debates with Morris, whether in Chico or Redding.

Herger gave serious lip service to how the north state needs this and the north needs that and we must do this and we must do that. Blah, blah, blah.

Anyone can talk. We need a man of action. We don’t need a dittohead all-of-the-above politician. We need someone with enough brain matter to actually select the right answer and/or invent a fresh solution.

We need someone who will actually do something, especially as we head into some treacherous financial times that could rock our world in every way. We need an alert, quick-thinking, smart, congressman as we face a potential global and international economic head-on collision.

We do not need some old guy asleep at the wheel, running red lights and taking us over a cliff.

Voter-willing, Herger’s talkin’ days are coming to an end.

Hey, look there. I think I just saw a pig fly by with an armload of snowballs.

It’s about time.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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