Rep. Lee and Local Republican Prepare for Showdown





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A longtime Berkeley businessman is mounting a campaign to unseat Rep. Barbara Lee, but he faces an uphill battle as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

Jerald Udinsky, who runs an economic consulting firm on Telegraph Avenue, will first have to get the nod from the Republican Party in March before he zeroes in on Lee, the two-term Democrat from Oakland, in November.

But a showdown between the two candidates is expected, their supporters have said, because they have strong support in their respective parties.

Udinsky said he expects little difficulty from Hector Reyna, his opponent for the Republican slot, who Udinsky said lacks party backing. And Lee Halterman, heading up Lee's re-election bid, said Lee will have no problem garnering her party's support.

But Udinsky said Lee is not the right representative for District 9, which encompasses a large part of the East Bay, because her policies conflict with the "mainstream" beliefs of the people she represents.

"Barbara Lee's policies tend to be hard to differentiate from those of the Socialist Party," Udinsky said.

Lee's vote against a war powers resolution that allowed President Bush to use military force in Afghanistan caused Udinsky to launch his campaign, he said. Her vote, the lone vote against the bill, was also the impetus for Audie Bock's short-lived campaign against Lee. She even launched a Web site called "Dump Barbara Lee," but she withdrew her bid after little more than a month.

Udinsky called Lee "the Neville Chamberlain of the American Congress," referring to the British Prime Minister who tried unsuccessfully to appease the Nazis in order to prevent World War II.

Lee's vote against war, however, fits her pacifist voting record and may not hurt her in the liberal East Bay.

A poll taken by UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies in October suggests that a majority of residents in her district support Lee's vote. An even larger number of people, 66 percent, gave Lee a favorable approval rating, according to the same poll.

"My experience strongly suggests that there are a number of people who disagree but respect Barbara Lee for her vote," Halterman said.

Her vote may even have helped her campaign, said Jerry Lubenow, a professor at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.

After attending UC Berkeley as a graduate student in the 1970s, Udinsky stayed in the Berkeley area, teaching and later establishing his own company, the Udinsky Group, which specializes in economic analysis of legal issues.

He also taught at UC Santa Cruz as an assistant professor until 1977.

Udinsky said he wants to reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

His platform includes tax reductions and more attention to schools in the East Bay area, Udinsky said.

"Barbara Lee refuses to admit that the schools in the central cities are a total failure," said Udinsky.

He said he supports school vouchers and charter schools run by private businesses.

But his campaign still has many obstacles to overcome.

Udinsky has only received small donations from private individuals, while Barbara Lee has raised over $300,000 for her campaign, Halterman said.

The liberal tendencies of the district also stand in the way of a Udinsky victory in November.

"Any Republican who runs in this district has a lot of courage," Lubenow said.

Halterman agreed, saying that traditionally the deciding race has been for the democratic nomination.

But that is no excuse, Udinsky said, admitting that "there is a Democratic Party machine in this area" that will be difficult to challenge.

He said he has been endorsed by major Republican groups in the district's area and will also attend debates and public forums to spread his campaign message.

Udinsky ran for the state Assembly in 1998 and 2000 against Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, garnering 11 and 12 percent of the 14th District's votes, respectively.

Lee received 85 percent of the congressional district when she ran in 2000.

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