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Endorsement: Mike Thompson for 5th District Representative

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Unless something entirely unexpected happens, Mike Thompson (D, St. Helena) will retain his seat as Sonoma Valley’s 5th District Congressional Representative in November. He may make if official even sooner, if he attains more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary, thus avoiding a top-two general election runoff against one of three challengers, none of whom has held elected office and will likely divide the anti-Thompson votes to be had.

Thompson, 67, provided admirable leadership last year during the October fires and has done his best to provide a voice for 5th District concerns on Capitol Hill. His record of voting and legislation has been largely in tune with the Sonoma-Napa demographic he represents – that the aforementioned voice and votes have at times fallen on deaf ears in a Republican-controlled legislature and executive branch is of little surprise. And, of course, Thompson and his Democratic colleagues in D.C. are hoping the electorate remedies that situation to some degree this November, as the Democrats hold out hopes of retaking a majority in the House of Representatives.

But first Thompson will have to get past the three challengers to his seat in the June 5 primary – an aspirational, if politically inexperienced trio.

Nils Palsson, 33, is a communications director with Transition U.S., which works to establish “transition towns,” a model of transitioning local communities toward sustainability. He lives in Santa Rosa and works as an anatomy and physical education teacher at a private school in San Francisco. He cites economic and social justice, healthcare and climate leadership among his priorities. If you’re a fat-cat CEO of Big Oil thinking of donating to the Palsson for Congress campaign – think again. The independent candidate is not taking any corporate donations and says, “getting money out of politics” is one of his primary goals.

Vallejo resident Anthony Mills is a rare candidate indeed – both a career “merchant mariner” and an independent running for Congress. Mills, 67, is on a crusade to prove that running as an independent should be – and is – viable. He says we must recognize and reject the “money expenditure circus” that dominates politics. He wants to curb the national debt by ending farm subsidies, lower healthcare costs through tort reform and hold Congress more accountable through term limits.

Jason Kishineff is a Green Party candidate who lives in American Canyon. Like his fellow challengers, Kishineff, 48, wants to get corporate money out of politics. He also lists both police and prison reform, as well as universal healthcare among his priorities. He says Rep. Thompson is too beholden to corporate campaign contributions to place the needs of his constituents above his donors. Kishineff is running a scrappy campaign: When the Index-Tribune refused to run his campaign materials as a letter to the editor, he threatened to bring his supporters to Sonoma to picket our offices. We didn’t run them, and have yet to see him on West Napa Street. But we like his panache.

We applaud Palsson, Mills and Kishineff for entering the race and believe the light they hold to Thompson’s record in Congress is a valuable one. We’d also prefer to see how they would fare on a local city council or county commission before throwing our support behind them as community leaders on the national stage.

Thompson stands behind his record of bipartisanship as a member of the minority party in the House. He highlights his 2015 vote on the Highway and Transportation Funding Act and his own 2016 legislation extending solar tax credits as examples of his commitments to job creation, infrastructure and conservation. Thompson also stresses that his commitment to improving the healthcare system extends beyond his support of the Affordable Care Act – he passed a bill earlier this year that allows physicians’ assistants to serve hospice patients and also passed legislation to extend the Independence At Home program which provides in-home primary care services for high-need Medicare patients.

Thompson is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, co-founded the Congressional Wine Caucus and chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. It’s in that latter role that one hopes Thompson can make a meaningful impact. As an acknowledged gun owner and sportsman, Thompson’s push to expand background checks for the purchase of firearms might carry some weight in the Republican-controlled Congress, whose conservative members tend to move in lockstep with the National Rifle Association, no matter how many mass public shootings the nation suffers. Thompson’s HR 4240, which he introduced with Rep. Peter King (R-NY), would close a loophole that in some states allows people to buy guns at gun shows or over the Internet without background checks. Unfortunately, Thompson hasn’t been able to convince his Republican colleagues in Congress to bring it to a vote.

Therein lies the challenge for Thompson – or whomever goes on to represent the 5th District, as none of the candidates claim GOP membership. Even if control of the House shifts this year, partisanship gridlock will remain a staple of how Washington operates.

Or, more to the point, barely operates. We wish the winner good luck with that.

We recommend Mike Thompson for 5th District Representative.

– Jason Walsh, editor

– John Burns, publisher