First McNerney challenger surfaces

Republicans finally have a candidate against freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), and they’re deeming it a big recruitment success.

Former state assemblyman and businessman Dean Andal declared for McNerney’s seat yesterday, becoming the first candidate to step forward in the top Republican target district.

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“Dean Andal is a political heavyweight and the kind of top-tier candidate we have been looking for,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain. “He is a proven vote-getter with close ties to the community, and we believe that he has what it takes to put the seat back in the Republican column.”

Andal was an assemblyman in the early 1990s and served on the California Board of Equalization and Franchise Tax Board between 1994 and 2002. In 2003, he co-chaired the tax policy group of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) transition team.

He has also been involved in the Boy Scouts, his local school board and other youth causes.

“For all the talk and promises, Congress continues to abuse our money and betray our trust,” Andal said. “I want to help rebuild trust and put Congress on a new path.”

McNerney defeated Rep. Richard Pombo (R) by six points in 2006, partly thanks to Pombo’s ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His district leans Republican, and President Bush won it by nine points in 2004.

Pombo has said he will not run in 2008.

Assemblyman Guy Houston, who is also considered a strong potential challenger, is still considering the race.

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