Tauscher's congressional seat in California up for grabs

When the Legislature reconfigured California's congressional districts after the 2000 census, it ratified a bipartisan political deal aimed at preserving the numerical status quo — and in Ellen Tauscher's case it meant preserving her re-election prospects while making her life a little more difficult.

Tauscher had won her congressional seat in the eastern suburbs of the liberal San Francisco Bay Area by knocking off a Republican incumbent. But she had hewed to a centrist line that irritated liberal activists and compounded that ideological heresy by refusing to back San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi's bid for congressional power.

Tauscher's punishment, or so it seemed, was a newly drawn district that sprawled farther east, into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that has few residents and voters but is the flash point for California's battles over water.

Tauscher got some changes that restored portions of her previous district, then won re-election handily to four more terms. But this year, with no prospect of moving up in a House dominated by Speaker Pelosi, Tauscher opted out of Congress, accepting a State Department appointment from President Barack Obama.

Tauscher's departure has touched off a duel among congressional hopefuls that will culminate on Sept. 1 in a special election, with the top vote-getting Democrat virtually guaranteed election in a Nov. 3 runoff. Democratic voters hold a nearly 20 percentage-point edge over Republicans in the 10th Congressional District.

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