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California: Autism Activist Enters Race Against McNerney

Autism activist Elizabeth Emken joined the Republican field this week in the race to take on second-term Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.). Party strategists on both sides of the aisle expect the race for McNerney’s 11th district seat to be one of California’s most competitive House contests in 2010, and Republicans think Emken could be a credible candidate in what is likely to be a crowded GOP primary.

Emken, vice president for government relations at the charity Autism Speaks and former financial manager for IBM Corp., promised in her launch speech to be “a very different kind of Representative in Washington — a conservative Representative.— She went on to criticize “Leader— Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and “follower McNerney’s— support for the stimulus package, climate change legislation that would feature a cap-and-trade program to regulate carbon emissions, and the overall level of government spending under the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Emken left her post with Autism Speaks to run for Congress. In her remarks, she said she became “an advocate for those with autism and for all special needs children— 13 years ago, after her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of four.

Before she can get to a matchup with McNerney, Emken has to face off against a field that includes grape grower Brad Goehring and Tony Amador, a former U.S. marshal for Northern California, among others. Goehring has kicked in a substantial portion of his campaign funds from his own pocket. Emken is also willing to contribute to her campaign, but not entirely self-fund.

McNerney, who won his 2008 re-election by 10 points, reported having $676,000 in cash at the end of the third quarter. None of it was self-funded.

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