DISTRICT: California's 4th (exurban Sacramento)
INCUMBENT: Rep. John Doolittle (R, eight terms)
CHALLENGER: Retired Air Force pilot Charlie Brown (D)
TOP ISSUES: Corruption, veterans
If the Republican culture of corruption is truly on the ballot in November, it's likely to make the difference in this northeastern district of California. What has long been a red bastion in a deep-blue state is suddenly up for grabs, as Brown has pulled within points of the scandal-tarred incumbent.
Doolittle has been linked to not one but two major scandals. He accepted more than $64,000 from Abramoff and his patronage network — and helped the corrupt lobbyist secure a contract with the Norther Marianas Islands, an American protectorate that Doolittle has helped preserve as a haven for sex slavery and sweatshops by exempting them from immigration and minimum-wage laws.
Doolittle also intervened on behalf of defense contractor Brent Wilkes — the man who bribed former Rep. Duke Cunningham — earmarking $37 million in the Navy budget to buy superfluous sonar equipment from Wilkes.
Brown, by contrast, served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and finished his career in Air Force intelligence, coordinating reconnaissance flights over the Iraqi "no-fly zone." His son Jeff is now on his fourth tour of duty as a pilot in Iraq. A pro-gun, pro-choice conservative who serves on the police force in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, Brown was a lifelong Republican — until the Bush administration abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism.
"Charlie Brown has magnificent credentials," raves Pelosi. "If we had Charlie Brown in many more races in the country, we would be guaranteed a victory in November."