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District 10 Congressional candidate David Harmer, a Republican, and his wife Elayne. (Sherry LaVars/Staff File)

After a grueling and unsuccessful duel last year with California's then-lieutenant governor for an open congressional seat, David Harmer was ready to go home to his wife and kids.

But a funny thing happened after he lost the Nov. 1 special election in the 10th Congressional District to Democrat John Garamendi.

Dozens of people called. They sent handwritten letters and e-mails. And they begged him to run again.

A Garamendi rematch presented an even steeper climb in 2010. Garamendi is an incumbent now, and the 10th district remains strongly Democratic.

The congressional district a mile south from Harmer's Dougherty Valley house, though, was a different story.

The 11th district is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, and many believe Democratic incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney is vulnerable in the wake of public angst over the recession and health care reforms.

"I will concede the point," Harmer said. "It looks bad. I just ran last year. People must think, 'That guy really must want to get elected to something.' But what I can say, in my defense, is that I truly was recruited."

Harmer is no stranger to politics. His father, John, was a state senator appointed in 1974 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to fill out a term as California lieutenant governor. The young Harmer met Reagan on a number of occasions and remains an ardent admirer.

After law school, Harmer went to work on the campaign of rising Utah Republican star Enid Greene. Harmer would serve as her chief of staff in Washington, D.C., for a few months but left when he realized that Greene's new husband, Joe Waldholtz, was running the office.

Greene's career imploded when Waldholtz was convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from her father and illegally funneling into her campaign. Angry over the deception, Harmer waged a youthful, ill-timed and unsuccessful bid for her seat.

But Harmer says it was his work on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and Pacific Legal Foundation that make him qualified to serve in Congress.

He rarely mentions his recent job as a vice president and assistant general counsel for the credit card division of Washington Mutual Bank. He lost his job in January 2009 after JPMorgan Chase bought the struggling bank and closed the division.

Harmer is undeniably the strongest public speaker among the four candidates and has proved himself a capable fundraiser and campaign organizer.

Critics say his biggest liabilities are his multiple runs for Congress and his lack of ties to the San Joaquin Valley, where a majority of the district's voters live.

AGE: 47
HOMETOWN: San Ramon
OCCUPATION: Attorney
BACKGROUND: Ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Utah in 1996 and in the 10th Congressional District in 2009. Vice president and assistant general counsel in credit card division at Providian, which was acquired by Washington Mutual and then JPMorgan Chase, 2001 to January 2009. Prior jobs include fellow at the Heritage Foundation; chief of staff to Rep. Enid Greene, R-Utah; president of Excellence Through Choice in Education League in El Segundo; fellow at the Pacific Legal Foundation; and minority counsel to a Senate Judicial Committee subcommittee.
FAMILY: Married; four children
MAJOR ENDORSEMENTS: Former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; former California Rep. Norm Shumway; 2008 11th district Republican nominee and Board of Equalization member Dean Andal, of Stockton; former Rep. Bill Baker, of Danville.
WEBSITE: http://harmerforcongress.com