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Thompson at "The Table of Knowledge" in Calistoga

Rep. Mike Thompson sat with constituents at the Calistoga Roastery on Aug. 24 to listen to their concerns. The front table in the shop is the informal meeting spot for a group of regulars, and has been affectionately called “The Table of Knowledge.”

Tom Stockwell photos, Weekly Calistogan

Editor’s note: The St. Helena Star is a sister paper to The Weekly Calistogan.

Our endorsement of Rep. Mike Thompson won’t come as a surprise, and it shouldn’t.

No, not because he’s our hometown Congressman, a grapegrower and a product of old-time St. Helena. That helps, but it doesn’t clinch the deal.

Instead, we’re endorsing him for his 18 years of experience in Congress (where influence is in direct proportion to seniority), his office’s sterling reputation for helping constituents when they have a problem with a government agency, and his moderate approach to politics, which prioritizes human decency over partisanship.

Even if Thompson were from a nondescript neighborhood in Hercules or Pinole (which, believe it or not, are in his district) rather than St. Helena, that record alone would earn our endorsement.

We admire his fight to pass a bill that would require background checks for all gun purchasers. It has the votes it needs to pass, but the Republican leadership won’t bring it to the floor. Thompson, a gun owner and avid hunter, has doggedly kept pushing for it anyway.

He identified traffic congestion, housing prices and water as the biggest problems facing the Napa Valley, and vowed to press for a major transportation package that would fund local projects and create jobs.

Thompson’s goals are clear. As a Blue Dog Democrat, he’s campaigning for moderate Democrats in New York and Santa Barbara, in hopes that their presence in Congress will create a more congenial, productive atmosphere in what has become a shamefully feckless body.

Thompson also mentors younger lawmakers, in hopes of passing down old-fashioned leadership values: an affinity for compromise, respect for those with whom one disagrees, and a passion for accomplishing things and helping constituents rather than toeing a party line. Experienced, civic-minded legislators like him are all too rare in today’s Congress, which has experienced massive turnover and polarization in the last decade.

Thompson told us he won’t accept a cabinet appointment in the next administration, since he wants to keep representing his district. But we like to imagine him taking on a larger role in the House leadership. His presence in the upper echelons of the leadership structure could at least help melt a hole in the frozen wall of gridlock that separates the two parties.

Even if that doesn’t happen, he can still help restore people’s faith in government here at home. Any constituent who’s ever asked Thompson’s office for help can testify to how courteous, responsive and effective he and his staff are.

Thompson proposed taking that grassroots approach one step further with an “all-government town hall meeting” where he and elected officials at the state, county and city levels would team up with nonprofits to offer a one-stop shop where people could get their problems solved.

We love that idea and we’re confident he has the clout to make it happen. Just like he got Berryessa-Snow Mountain declared a national monument. Just like he helped secure federal funding for local nonprofits that serve parents, seniors and veterans. Just like he brought relief to victims of the fires in Lake County.

So don’t vote for Thompson because he lives a few blocks away. Vote for him because he’s an outstanding congressman.

Note: We reached out to Thompson’s opponent, Republican businessman Carlos Santamaria of Napa, but weren’t able to set up an interview.