"Barbara Lee is going to be hard to beat, but I believe I have a platform, I have a plan and if I carry out that plan correctly I will beat Barbara Lee in 2008 I'm 100 percent confident," said Charles Hargrave, 47.
Hargrave who moved to Oakland from San Pablo since losing his 2002 and 2004 bids to unseat Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez announced his candidacy Tuesday night at a meeting of the Alameda County Republican Central Committee, of which he's a member.
He said Monday he'll challenge Lee, D-Oakland, "because this is the best place for us to win, this is the place for us to make a statement" on GOP views and values. "If the Republican Party here follows my lead by going into African-American and Hispanic and Asian communities, it will increase our chances of winning."
Lee, 60, has represented the 9th Congressional District where 62 percent of registered voters are Democrats since 1998, getting 86 percent of the vote in November; 85 percent in 2004; and 82 percent in 2002. The district includes Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany and Piedmont as well as the unincorporated areas of Ashland, Castro Valley, Fairview and most of Cherryland.
A Berkeley native who grew up in East Oakland's Brookfield Village, Hargrave attended Oakland public schools before earning an associate degree from Laney College, where he said he specialized in finance. He now lives in the Fruitvale District and works there for Operation Hope, a nonprofit aimed at creating economic empowerment in underprivileged communities, in part through home ownership.
Soon before leaving office in late 2006, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown nominated Hargrave to the city's planning commission. Although sponsored by Council President Ignacio de la Fuente, the nomination was withdrawn under pressure from progressives.
"As far as I know, it doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat to sit on the planning commission it's a nonpartisan commission," he said.
But critics said he's too far out of step with most Oakland residents. Hargrave:
-Opposes gun control. "I believe every American has a right to bear arms to protect themselves, to protect their family and to protect their property. These days if someone breaks into your house, they're going to hurt you, and you're going to wish you had a handgun."
-Opposes abortion rights in principle as well as because African-American women account for a disproportionately high percentage of U.S. abortions. Add that to black-on-black violence, HIV/AIDS here and abroad and the genocide in Darfur, he said, and "my race is being systematically wiped off this planet."
-Opposes same-sex marriage. "Whatever two men or two women want to do in the privacy of their home is their own business, but I believe marriage is a holy union between God, man and woman that's the way I was raised and that's what I believe."
-Supports school vouchers as a means of breaking the cycle of hopelessness he sees in Oakland's minority youths. "The money already comes here from the state or the federal government. ... We can use that money, give that money to the parents to spend on charter or private schools."
-Opposes cutting funding or setting a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops in Iraq. "The bottom line is, we're there. Let's win and then go home. If we pull out now, it will send a signal all around the world that if you kill enough Americans, we will pull out and go home."
Hargrave said if elected, he'll push for 20 percent tax breaks for those making $35,000 to $100,000 per year, as well as for small-business owners.
Read the Political Blotter at InsideBayArea.com.