Machado "coulda ben a contenda", missed his chance to beat Pombo
There seems to be some confusion about Term Limits in the California Legislature (and this is relevant to the Congressional Race because legislators termed out often seek other, "higher" offices).
State Assembly -- 3 terms, which at 2 years each = 6 years
State Senate -- 2 terms, which at 4 years each = 8 years
Therefore, in the case of state Senator Mike Machado: He served in the Assembly from 1994 to 2000. (So termed out of Assembly.) He was elected to state Senate in 2000, re-elected in 2004. So he is termed out of the Senate in 2008.
Will he challenge McNerney for the Dem nomination in 2008? Who knows, but it is quite unusual to run against an incumbent in your own party, unless that person's job performance is so corrupt, dismal, or out-of-tune that the voters in the party want a change. This was the case with Pombo, where McCloskey and Beningo (Republicans) were able to get one-third of the Republican vote in the primary. That showed that even a good number of Republicans were sick and tired of Pombo and the Republican Congress/Administration.
With Machado, we have a guy who has been in public office for the last 12 years. I heard during the last election season that he was considering running against Pombo, but had just come off a tough re-election in 2004, where each side spent $5 million (he ran against Gary Podesto), in one of the most expensive state legislature races ever.
So he was reluctant to gear up for another tough run, and at the time (early 2006), Pombo was looking pretty strong.
Machado may have missed his chance for Congress, unless McNerney really crashes and burns over the next two years. That seems unlikely. The pundits are saying McNerney is vulnerable because of the voter registration in the Republican's favor in the district, not because he is failing the Dems. In fact, most articles have noted the McNerney (a PhD in Mathematics) is a quick study and will learn how to make his way in Congress, especially with the rest of the Bay Area delegation being Democratic and supportive of him, and with a Dem majority in the House.
The other noise I heard during the last primary season was that for Machado, who has a family farm in Linden, the idea of commuting to DC was not all that attractive. Obviously, Sacramento is just around the corner from Linden. At this point, my take is that Machado will look for a job in Sacramento, not in Washington. What state office could he run for next? I don't know, I am not focused on Sacramento at this point, and that is getting off-topic. Maybe even he has had enough of politics, and will be happy to ride around on his tractor, raising peaches and almonds, or whatever grows on his farm.
But part of the fun of politics is that you just never know, do ya? According to my dictionary, "ambition" means "eager for power or success". Funny thing, though -- it comes from the old Latin/French words mean "to go around soliciting for votes".