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GOP Primary Adds Fourth Contender in Calif. 11

Autism activist Elizabeth Emken joined the Republican field this past week 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 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 of California, the Democratic House Speaker, 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 age 4.

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

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