Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Campbell Senate Switch-a-roo. Is It Soup Yet?

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Two California political stories that won’t go away: will any Democrat try to get between Jerry Brown and his party’s nomination for governor? On the Republican side, will Tom Campbell leave the gubernatorial contest for greener pastures on the Senate side of the June ballot?

Tom Campbell

It wouldn’t be Campbell’s first try for “the world’s most deliberative body”.

He challenged Dianne Feinstein in 2000, as the GOP nominee. Eight years before that, he finished second in a three-man primary.

If Campbell does make the switch, that Senate race could look like déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once surmised, by taking on the same odd dynamics as the aforementioned 1992 contest.

That year, the moderate Campbell found himself in an increasingly bitter contest with conservative Bruce Herschensohn. All sorts of ugly accusations surfaced: Herschensohn was a tool of the White House (fightin’ words, since the Bush-Quayle re-elect had publicly blown off the Golden State); Campbell intended to wipe away the Orange County power structure as it then existed.

Further complicating matters: the surprise candidacy of political neophyte Sonny Bono. The punditry laughed him off, but Bono connected with voters in ways the intelligentsia never expected (sounds like the early days of Arnold, doesn’t it?). Herschensohn received 38.2% of the primary vote, 70,000 votes better than Campbell. The spoiler: Cher’s ex. Sonny Bono raked in almost 418,000 votes — one-sixth of the total, and presumably more than enough of the moderate bloc to hand the contest to Herschensohn.

So here’s the question: would the always-proper, always-polite Campbell be comfortable with the thought of playing the spoiler in 2010 — in this instance, possibly handing the race to the more conservative Chuck DeVore by taking away from the more centrist Carly Fiorina? Or does he think he’s better suited, as a cool-headed iconoclast, in this angry electoral climate?

Right now, that Republican primary is one part ideology, another part implied but unstated class warfare. Fiorina needs to convince hardcore Republicans that she’s suitably Reaganesque – always a challenge for a Silicon Valley Republican. DeVore — he of nuclear power and offshore drilling — suggests she’s anything but, all the while trying to score pathos as the non-millionaire candidate who’s campaigning out of his car, as opposed to the more affluent Fiorina.

Throw Campbell into the race and you’ll see at least wrinkles:

1) Abortion. DeVore and Fiorina are pro-life; Campbell’s pro-choice.

2) Taxes. DeVore and Fiorina take the usual conservative line (fuggedaboutit!).  Campbell has touted a temporary increase in the gas tax to help fill the state’s budget hole.

3) Same-Sex Marriage. DeVore and Fiorina voted for Proposition 8. Campbell voted no on 8 and penned an op-ed advocating an end to “marriage discrimination”.

4). Arnold. I’m assuming any and all GOP candidates will throw the governor under the bus, if it scores primary points. All except for Campbell, who once served as Schwarzenegger’s Director of Finance.

5) Food Fight. A DeVore-Fiorina race highlights the question of Republican “purity” — is the California GOP more “tea bag” or more centrist-right? With Campbell, the media will take it in a new direction: Republican statewide viability.

Over on Campbell’s campaign website, no upcoming public events were listed. And if you really like to over-read things: “Campbell for California” is office-interchangeable.

 Stay tuned to see if Senator Blutarsky called it right.


Written by Bill Whalen

January 8, 2010 at 5:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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    salvador aguilar

    January 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

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