WOULD THOSE of you not running for Congress to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, please stand.

Seriously, it's getting crowded.

Even Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is looking at it — he lives on the edge of District 10 in Walnut Grove.

Garamendi called Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, a few days ago, although the congressman offered little encouragement. Miller reiterated his unflagging support for state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord.

Wait, isn't Garamendi running for governor? Yeah, although reports of a faltering campaign circulated recently after one of his top campaign staffers quit.

In a statement late Friday, here is what Garamendi said: "A number of people suggested I consider this seat. Of course, I will check it out. As a former undersecretary of the interior, there is a lot of exciting work going on in Washington. Much is possible with Barack Obama.

"But I am focused on California and my campaign for governor."

So, is he running for Congress or not? It sounds like he is keeping his options open.

THE REAL STORY. Contra Costa Assemblyman Tom Torlakson's decision to pass up a congressional campaign and stick with his bid to become the next California education czar has some people scratching their heads.

Torlakson, they accurately say, would have a far easier time of it if he ran for Tauscher's seat.


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For starters, District 10 has 367,000 registered voters compared with 17.2 million statewide. And gaining traction in an obscure, statewide, nonpartisan down-ticket race — it shows up on the ballot beneath the Board of Equalization — in a huge state is like climbing Half Dome on crutches.

In contrast, Torlakson has broad name identification in Contra Costa, which makes up the bulk of the district. The former teacher has held public office there for 31 years.

For the cynics out there who think Torlakson must have an ulterior motive, here's the deal: He really wants to be superintendent of public schools.

"It took me about two hours to make the decision," Torlakson said. "I followed my heart, and the teacher in me said, 'You can do more for California by taking the education job.'"

That's not to say he didn't think about Congress.

The night the news of Tauscher's departure broke, Torlakson called DeSaulnier, his friend and colleague, and asked "If I run, will you endorse me?"

DeSaulnier said yes and, as a result, effectively ruled out his own candidacy.

But the next afternoon, the men met in a Capitol hallway, and in what DeSaulnier described as an emotional moment, Torlakson expressed his passion for education, urged his friend to run and offered his endorsement.

"It was an amazing moment," DeSaulnier said. "Tom is one of the most sincere people I know, and I believe him when he says that education is where he wants to be."

Who says there are no friends in politics?

DOWN TO BUSINESS. Friends are good, but what DeSaulnier really needs to run for Congress is dough.

To that end, he flew to Washington, D.C., last week and hired a professional fundraiser.

While he was there, he scored an invite to a fundraiser for Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, at which Obama put in an appearance.

In politics, it's even better to have friends in high places.

GOT DOMINOES? DeSaulnier's entry into the congressional fray is fueling speculation about who — if he wins — will run for his Senate seat.

An oft-mentioned name is that of former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg, who opted out of what would have been a bloody Senate primary campaign against DeSaulnier in 2008. Canciamilla still has $350,000 in the bank, which gives him an edge.

Also prominently mentioned is Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo. But that buzz may be coming primarily from DeSaulnier's fans, who would love to see her set her sights elsewhere.

Contra Costa County Supervisor Susan Bonilla's name is floating around, too. She insists she will remain focused on her Assembly campaign, the only seat she knows for certain will be open.

SUPERVISOR, ANYONE? Bonilla's decision to run for the Assembly will open her supervisor seat in 2010 — her term ends then, and she can't run for more than one seat at a time.

Pleasant Hill Councilwoman Karen Mitchoff has declared her candidacy, and others will almost certainly surface.

GOT POLITICS? Read Inside Politics for the latest happenings at www.ibabuzz.com/politics such as:

  • Contra Costa Supervisor Federal Glover spent a few days back in the hospital last week. But not to worry, says his wife.

    AND FINALLY. Rumors that Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia will move to El Cerrito and run for the Senate are unfounded.

    He is absolutely seeking re-election to a fourth term next year.

    "I made a joke about moving, and I can't believe how fast it got around," Gioia laughed. "But I just redid the kitchen in my Richmond home, and I am not moving."

    Reach Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com or www.ibabuzz.com/politics.