Larry Westerlund, a Fresno City Council member and the body's newly elected president, said today he will seek the 19th Congressional District seat being vacated by Mariposa Republican George Radanovich.
Westerlund, 43, joins an increasingly crowded field seeking the Republican nomination in the district, which runs from Fresno north through Madera, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties to the eastern parts of Stanislaus County.
Others in the race include former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson, state Sen. Jeff Denham and former Congressman Richard Pombo, who served seven terms in the neighboring 11th Congressional District.
Westerlund, a Fresno native, is serving his second term on the City Council. He refused to call himself an underdog in the race, characterizing himself as "'the little guy,' but sometimes the little guys do big things."
He compared himself to Visalia Republican Devin Nunes, who in 2002 was a political novice with minimal experience in elected office when he beat Patterson and then-Assembly Member Mike Briggs for a seat in Congress.
Westerlund has been contemplating a run since Radanovich announced he would not seek re-election as his wife battles cancer. Patterson, who was poised to challenge Radanovich, immediately said he would seek the seat, as did Denham. Radanovich endorsed Denham as his replacement.
Pombo also said he wanted the seat, and last week made it official.
Westerlund said he would best serve the district because he's had to deal with Sacramento and Washington, D.C., politicians as a local elected official, and worked on an anti-terrorism task force in Africa when he was called to active duty by the U.S. Navy in May 2008.
In an interview, Westerlund also cast himself as an outsider.
"I feel strongly that we shouldn't allow the power brokers and fats cats in Washington and Sacramento pick who our representative is going to be," he said. "If you like what you see in Sacramento and D.C., vote for the other guys. But we need somebody who hasn't got that taint."