From the streets of Mariposa to a mountaintop in the Sierra, George Radanovich has his feet firmly planted back on home ground.
Radanovich said, "I gotta tell you -- its just good being back in California and its good being back here."
To say its been a difficult year for the congenial Congressman would be a massive understatement. One year ago ... he granted the wish of his ailing wife.
Radanovich said, "She said it would bring me great joy and happiness if I knew you weren't running again and so that was when the decision was made and I think for family purposes it was the right thing to do."
Radanovich would not seek another term in order to focus on his wife's health and his young son. Tragically, Ethie Radanovich lost her courageous battle with cancer a few months later.
Radanovich said, "I have to tell you, it is like going on with half a soul and it always will be but you have to accept that fact and you live that way but there's a piece of her in every place I see around here."
Radanovich packed up and sold his house in Virginia ... and moved back to his hometown ... and his home on the family ranch. No more jetting back and forth between Washington and California. And no regrets about ending a Congressional career that began back in 1994 when he first won election in the 19th district.
Radanovich was part of the big Republican sweep into Congress ... lead by Newt Gingrich. The young lawmakers signed and pushed the "Contract with America" ... an agreement to bring ten key conservative issues to the House floor for a vote. But Radanovich says the Contract with America was weak and couldn't compete with what he calls the Democrats' 80 year old social agenda.
Radanovich said, "The republicans didn't have a compelling message that would create enough votes in Washington to break that old contract and start with a more conservative view of govt."
The website "http://ontheissues.org/default.htm" tallied up sixteen years of Radanovich's congressional votes and scored him as a hard line conservative. He hopes people appreciate how he represented the district, but Radanovich is more concerned about unfinished business than his accomplishments ... and he believes the candidate he endorsed -- Congressman-elect Jeff Denham -- will continue the fight.
Radanovich said, "I think that for issues locally, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. I'm not proud of the fact that immigration's not solved ... not proud of the fact that we're still scrambling for water."
Water may play a key role in the Radanovich Congressional legacy. Radanovich pushed the restoration of the San Joaquin River at the request of local ag leaders ... a move that cost him some supporters and allies.
Radanovich said, "It turned out to be politically, not very pleasant at all ... but given the same circumstances to get it out of the judge's hands with the consent of the Friant Water Directors ... I would do it again."
Back in Mariposa ... Radanovich is considering his future. Before her election night defeat ... Radanovich says Meg Whitman invited him to a part of her transition team and a group of valley farm leaders floated his name for state ag secretary.
Now, he's thinking about getting back into the vine and wine business ... despite the painful failure of his namesake winery years ago and questions raised by investors because of it.
Radanovich said, "Not a quitter -- Radanovichs aren't quitters. It's something that compels me and its still a real desire and part of my heart and what I want to do."
Radanovich says he's also dedicating his future and an upcoming book ... to changing the culture in this country. He wants rebuild the American family and eventually reduce dependency on the government.
Radanovich said, "If I can do that ... that would be the biggest contribution I can ever make to this country."