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Our View: Where is the local talent for the 4th District?

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Can an outsider understand and represent the issues “ and people “ of the sprawling 4th Congressional District? Or maybe the bigger question for district voters: What's the definition of representative government? State Sen. Tom McClintock's announcement Tuesday that he's in the race to replace retiring Congressman John Doolittle drew rants and raves across the Gold Country: Raves from those who believe McClintock will uphold the conservative political values of Doolittle, and rants from those who believe McClintock's southern California political career is no match for Nor Cal natives. Party affiliation had little to do with it. Democratic candidate Charlie Brown issued an e-mail, asking supporters to pledge $100 for every one of the 418 miles between McClintock's Thousand Oaks home and Roseville. I still firmly believe we need a new direction “ for our country, Brown wrote. And I believe the last thing District Four needs is another career politician who needs driving directions just to find our district. Doug Ose, McClintock's likely foe in the June Republican primary, echoed the distance theme. This district doesn't need an L.A. politician who needs a GPS system to find the district, said Ose spokesman Doug Elmets. Ose lives in nearby Sacramento “ only a few miles from Roseville “ but outside the Fourth District boundaries nonetheless. Beyond the sound bites, McClintock's declaration throws into question what mainstream Republicans are looking for in a successor to Doolittle. It also shows how poorly Doolittle and the Placer County Republican Central Committee have planned for this day. Successful businesses and organizations remain successful, in part, because they develop a thoughtful succession plan. Bright, visionary employees become emerging leaders who rise through the ranks, picking up experience and reshaping the organizational DNA along the way. When the day comes, they're prepared to take the helm. The speed of Doolittle's descent, however, seems to have left the party picking through the fragments. Newcomer Eric Egland ran on the platform of ethical government. Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes ran “ again “ for a time as an alternative to Doolittle. Among established politicians, former state Sen. Rico Oller first jumped into the race, and Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, gave it some serious thought. Egland and Gaines were among those on the steps of the courthouse endorsing McClintock. Sometimes the new CEO is brought in from outside the company, but unless the foundation is strong with homegrown talent, organizational stability is at risk. That's the situation Fourth District Republicans find themselves in now. McClintock or Ose just might be the Republican answer to Charlie Brown, but the party would be served well by building its own farm system “ not in the shadow of its star player, but rather in the party DNA of fiscal conservatism and limited government, tenets buried in the ballooning deficits of the Bush Administration. Building local relationships, community service and experience also should be high on the list. Perhaps it's fitting that McClintock declared his candidacy on the steps of the historic Auburn Courthouse, smack dab in the middle of the Endurance Capital of the World. If he can traverse more than 400 miles between jobs and do both well, maybe he is the right candidate for the 4th Congressional District. And if that's not enough of a test, there's a little 100-miler from Squaw Valley to Auburn every June to hone his running skills.