While it's disappointing that Dennis Cardoza of Merced left Congress a few months shy of completing his fifth term and immediately joined a high-powered lobbying firm, that shouldn't color his strong performance in 28 years in public office.
No doubt his greatest contribution from his four years in the Assembly and 10 years in the House of Representatives was his advocacy for the University of California at Merced.
"UC Merced would not exist today if it were not for Dennis Cardoza," said Robert Hertzberg, the former speaker of the state Assembly. "No person worked harder on any issue than did Dennis on UC Merced. His work was determined, forceful, focused and he did not accept excuses. Dennis' efforts regarding UC Merced are leadership at its best."
Cardoza not only fought to get the UC system's 10th campus located in Merced, he also remained thoroughly engaged in how it was operating. Most recently, he was among those championing the establishment of a UC Merced medical school as one way to improve health care and increase the number of physicians in the Valley. His wife's experience as a family practice physician in Merced gave him an inside perspective on the health issues.
Cardoza also has been a strong advocate for agriculture and more consideration for the fruit and nut crops grown in California, which always got second fiddle in federal farm spending to the grain farmers of the Midwest. Cardoza represented all of Merced County and part of Stanislaus and San Joaquin County and he seemed to understand his district well.
Like his predecessor and former boss, Gary Condit, Cardoza aligned himself with the Blue Dogs, a coalition of moderate and conservative Democrats in Congress. They had some influence when the Democrats had control of the House, but that largely disappeared after the Republican gained the majority in 2010. A govtrack.com analysis of his bill sponsorship pegged Cardoza as a centrist Democrat, and midlevel in terms of leadership.
In the last two years, Cardoza became increasingly frustrated with what was going on -- and what wasn't getting done -- in Washington, D.C. He was openly critical of the Obama administration for not doing enough to ease the foreclosure crisis in his 18th District and other parts of California.
Cardoza's announcement last fall that he would not run again came as no surprise, both because of his visible frustration with partisan politics but also due to family concerns. His wife and three children moved to Maryland in 2008 so the family could spend more time together.
Cardoza isn't leaving the political world. He was immediately hired by a powerful law and lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. While we don't like that trek, it's a common one for former members of Congress, and the other two most recent members of Congress from the northern San Joaquin Valley, George Radanovich and Richard Pombo, also have taken a turn with lobbying-governmental affairs firms.
Cardoza says that he still wants to bring resources and investments into the Valley; we hope he can use his experience in public office and his deep familiarity with the region to do so.
When we endorsed Cardoza for re-election in 2010, we noted that he had helped the Valley get millions of dollars for projects ranging from improved communication systems for law enforcement to gang suppression to flood control to agricultural pest detection. He worked with Republican colleagues over the years, including current 19th District Rep Jeff Denham; his predecessor, Radanovich; and Pombo, a Tracy farmer.
He put the needs of district ahead of partisan rhetoric. We acknowledge him for serving his constituents well.
BORN: March 31, 1959
FAMILY: Married to Dr. Kathleen McLoughlin; three children: Joey, Brittany and Elaina
EDUCATION: Attended California State University, Stanislaus, and graduated from the University of Maryland, 1982
POLITICAL CAREER: Atwater City Council, 1984-1986; Merced City Council, 1994-1995; California Assembly, 1996-2002; House of Representatives, 2003-August 2012