Speier looks like early front-runner to fill Lantos’ seat

A retired liquor-store owner, a 38-year-old health care advocate, a man running solely to reduce military funding and a former California utilities commissioner have their work cut out for them in the next six weeks, local political analysts said.

The quartet of San Franciscans and San Mateo County residents will be taking on heavy favorite Jackie Speier for the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by the late Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who died earlier this month from cancer.

All five have qualified for the special and general election ballot, according to the San Mateo County Elections Office. They are vying for the 12th Congressional District, which represents San Mateo County and parts of San Francisco.

The special election will take place April 8 and the general election will take place in June 3. If Speier wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the special election, she will automatically win the June general election outright and serve the remainder of Lantos’ term, which ends Jan. 3, 2009. If she doesn’t, the five will face off again in June.

“They have no chance,” said Ed McGovern, a longtime political consultant.

Speier has spent six years on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, 10 in the California Assembly and eight in the state Senate. But that’s not stopping her challengers from running small-budget campaigns, some of which involve a first-time run at public office.

Mike Moloney may be the best known of the challengers. The retired former owner of a liquor-store chain lost to Lantos in three previous elections, most recently in 2006. He hopes to raise about $50,000.

“I personally think that I have a legitimate chance of winning this thing,” Moloney said.

Michelle McMurry, 38, is running for public office for the first time but has served in Washington, D.C., under Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Barry Hermanson will run as the lone Green Party candidate. He admits his candidacy is based on only one issue: the nation’s “obscene” level of military spending. He is running mostly a grass-roots campaign, using about $5,000 in contributions.

Speier spokesman Alex Tourk said she is not taking anything for granted. An expected low turnout from the special primary has left her team working seven days per week, he said. 

Republican candidate Greg Conlon was president of the California Public Utilities Commission from 1993 to 1998 and lost to Phil Angelides in the 2002 race for state treasurer.

mrosenberg@examiner.com  

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