Jessica Morse accruing war chest in run against Tom McClintock
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles highlighting Democratic challengers in the race for California’s 4th Congressional District. Republican candidates will be profiled in weeks to come.
On Jan. 10, Jessica Morse’s campaign announced she raised more than $294,000 during the fourth quarter of 2017 in her run to represent California’s 4th Congressional District.
It’s been a long time since any Democrat raised this much in a quarter in the district. Seven Democrats raised $210,720 combined over four elections for the district between 2009 and 2016, per the Federal Election Commission website. Five-term Rep. Tom McClintock dominated fundraising in each of these races.
But with McClintock a conservative Republican tied to President Donald Trump, money is pouring in for at least two people running against McClintock: Morse and fellow Democrat Regina Bateson, who raised $255,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Morse, a 35-year-old Pollock Pines resident who spent 10 years working in national security before entering the Congressional race last year, is ready for the fight of her life.
“I’m really tough, I’m made of steel and I know exactly what I’m walking into in terms of Congress and I’m going to be incredibly effective,” Morse said in a late December interview with The Press Tribune. “I’m running because I’m going to be the most effective advocate for our community and I’m not afraid of McClintock.”
Morse earned a master’s degree in public policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and has done work related to Iraq for the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State. She also worked for the U.S. Department of Defense on U.S.-India defense strategy.
“My career has kind of spanned all over the world, and a lot of it’s very service-oriented,” Morse said.
She moved back to California with a 10-year plan to run for office, a plan that accelerated after Trump’s election and a series of heated town halls that McClintock hosted in early 2017.
“When McClintock came out in lockstep with Trump and started voting against the interest of community, I thought, ‘OK, I need to challenge him now.’”
So what can Morse bring to the table that McClintock cannot?
“First and foremost, I’m a public servant and he’s a politician,” Morse said.
She noted that he voted against rural broadband internet access and he’s never moved inside the district, splitting time between a home in Elk Grove and Washington, D.C.
“McClintock is not representing our community,” Morse said. “I think that’s the distinction we need to continue to draw, that he’s somebody who is representing his donors, he’s representing his narrow political philosophy and voting against basic things in our community.”
Of her own political philosophy, Morse said she’s socially liberal and fiscally conservative but avoids labels “like the plague.” To a certain extent, she bucks party convention with interests such as hunting which she describes as “not my main sport but … certainly a family past-time.”
Morse dismissed the idea of running as an independent, saying, “I certainly more closely align with the Democrats. I support our environment. I support individual rights and the Republican Party has shifted away.”
Five generations of Morse’s family have lived in the district, she said, with roots to rural Gold Run.
“I even have a gold mine that my great-grandfather won in a poker bet,” Morse said.
Morse is now betting that voters in the district are willing to embrace someone different than McClintock. Only one Democrat has come close to winning this district — Charlie Brown, in the hotly contested 2008 election.
Morse appears confident of her chances, with a potential Democratic Party endorsement for one candidate in the race looming in late January and the primary election in June.
“I feel like this campaign is really my love letter to my community and to my country,” Morse said. “So that’s why I’m running.”