Andal Facing Unwanted Scrutiny in California

Posted August 20, 2008 at 3:29pm

Former California Assemblyman Dean Andal, a top Republican recruit who is challenging freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) in the Golden State’s 11th district, is facing increasing scrutiny over his role in a botched construction project at a a community college.

A prominent state Senator late last week called on the California State Controller’s Office to conduct an audit of the San Joaquin Delta College Board of Trustees after the board allegedly misappropriated $250 million in government-backed bond funds set aside for the reconstruction of the community college campus.

A civil grand jury report released earlier this summer found that the college board wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money and violated open-meeting laws by discussing the project outside of public meetings. Andal, a consultant for the developer of the project, was named in the grand jury report as having obtained information from board members that was not intended to be made public.

Andal has denied that he leaked any information from board meetings. But the attention on the community college construction project is unwelcome news for a candidate who Republicans are counting on to oust McNerney. The freshman Congressman upset then-House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) in 2006, aided largely by environmental groups, and Republicans have argued that Andal is a candidate with far less baggage than Pombo who can take advantage of the district’s GOP leanings.

But some Republicans have privately expressed frustration with Andal’s relatively low fundraising numbers. Through June 30, he had raised a respectable $829,000 and had $663,000 in the bank. But that was modest compared with the $2.17 million raised and almost $1.38 million on hand for the incumbent.

Democratic strategists have suggested that internal polls show Andal’s support dropping since the community college story has received wide circulation in the district and have promised that Andal’s role in the controversy is certain to be fodder for political ads later in the fall.