The only real question confronting Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, in his bid for a ninth term in the House of Representatives is whether he will top the 74.5 percent winning margin he had in 2002.
Thompson has never lost an election since he first ran for the California State Senate in 1990, and his lowest winning margin for the House is 61.84 percent.
Some of his success margins are no doubt a result of the registration edge Democrats have had in both Congressional districts in which Thompson has run – the elongated, former 1st District and the recently redrawn 5th District – but his moderate “Blue Dog” version of Democratic politics clearly has appeal across political boundaries, and this year no Republican emerged for even a token challenge.
Instead, two virtually unknown independents – one a former online professional poker player from Napa named James Hinton, the other a Martinez resident named Douglas “Dutch” Van Raam, whose resume includes stints as a stagehand, light rigger and landscaper.
Hinton, who has no political affiliation but says his views often align with the Libertarian party, is focusing his campaign heavily on the legalization of marijuana. He says medical marijuana is responsible for restoring his health, and he supported an unsuccessful effort earlier this year to put a referendum on the Napa city ballot allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in town. The petition drive fell some 2,000 signatures short of the necessary 3,852 valid signatures of Napa residents.
Hinton has cited his online poker success as evidence he can beat the odds which, when it comes to his chances of winning the 5th District Congressional seat, have to be considered long indeed. But, despite the fact that he has raised only $56 at this point in the campaign, Hinton says the odds “are blown out of proportion.
“I think I can win,” he insists. “I’m not asking for people’s money. I’m asking for their votes. I’d put my odds at 10-to-one.”
According to online poker site “Pocket Fives,” Hinton – whose poker playing moniker was once “The Napa Natural” – has lifetime online total cash winnings of $112,356, with a single-largest cash winning of $26,676. But Hinton says he did far better, and longer, playing conventional poker at Bay Area casinos and card rooms.
Hinton lists his top campaign issue as the loss of America’s rights. “I’m fed up with Washington, D.C.,” he said, “When they say you can’t play poker online anymore. … And we’ve turned into a complete spy state, with the Patriot Act and the NSA. They haven’t caught one terrorist in this country yet, but we’ve never been attacked in this country since the NRA has been there.”
Hinton says that while America “is developing into a police state,” there is not enough support for veterans. “Many people have profited off these wars,” he argues, “but we don’t take care of our veterans.”
Hinton supports legalization of marijuana, explaining that his own medical issues that “might have been cancer,” and included psoriatic arthritis, disappeared a year ago after he went on a no-fat, plant-based diet and began moderate use of cannabis. “I also lost about 100 pounds,” he said.