The Republican Cooley Dam
Here’s the surf forecast for next week’s election as far as California Republicans are concerned.
Rising tide: Governor Whitman, U.S. Sen. Carly Fiorina, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado.
Low ebb: State Attorney General Steve Cooley — and nothing else to show for the GOP ticket.
That California Republicans would have little to show in the midst of a GOP “surge” year raises all kinds of questions about the nation-state’s electorate, and the state party’s ability to adapt to the times. Dan Morain, a Sacramento Bee columnist, wades into that thicket.
And it raises unpleasant memories of recent statewide elections: 2006, when Gov. Schwarzenegger breezed to re-election and only one Republican (Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner) prevailed in a down-ticket race; 2002, when not a single Republican won a state constitutional race; and 1998, when but two GOP incumbents (Secretary of State Bill Jones and Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush) were re-elected.
But that Cooley is seen as a heavy favorite in the AG’s race speaks to something of a rarity in Golden State politics: a Republican’s built-in advantage, and a Democrat’s built-in liability.
Cooley’s advantage: a solid, non-controversial record as Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor, and the luxury of being a known entity in the one part of California that tends to decide AG races.
Harris’ liability: a decidedly mixed record, as San Francisco’s top prosecutor, that makes it easy to portray her as both public defender and top cop.
If the Republicans’ dread scenario occurs — Harris being the only statewide Democratic candidate to lose on Election Night — the irony will carry all the way to the White House. For all the effort President Obama poured into California to save his fellow Democrats’ bacon (stumping for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer), Harris arguably is the one Californian he’d like to see win.
She was an early supporter of Obama’s presidential campaign. And, at age 46 and possessing a most telegenic presence, Harris, the daughter of a Tamil mother and an Afro-Caribbean father, “could stand in as the prom queen for Barack Obama’s new post-racial America.” Or so LA Weekly believes.
Knowing that a Cooley win will disappoint the Obama White House obviously must please California GOP poohbahs. But if it’s the only positive on Election Night? Positively frustrating, positively disappointing.