Like flowers blooming in the spring, Republican
candidates for governor have begun to pop up during the last few weeks.
But there’s a key difference between the folks jumping up
this time and many who ran in gubernatorial primaries of the last two decades:
There are no billionaires among the early entrants. There
is no one with the financial wherewithal of people like airline mogul Al
Checchi, former Congresswoman Jane Harman (whose big money came from her late
husband’s electronics business), financier William Simon, developer Phil
Angelides, software innovator Steve Poizner and former eBay executives Steve
Westly and Meg Whitman.
There is also no one with the political experience of a
Poizner or a Westly or an Angelides, all of whom held statewide office before
running for governor.
And certainly no one with the combination of experience,
savvy, and fund-raising ability of Gov. Jerry Brown, whose approval ratings are
high in every poll after reducing the huge state deficit he inherited at the
start of his latest term.
In fact, the coming run for governor looks like a
cakewalk for Brown, who was gallivanting around China as his would-be rivals
started making their pitches. It is similar in one way to Democrat Dianne
Feinstein’s 2006 U.S. Senate reelection campaign, where only one Republican
bothered to enter the primary – the far-right former state legislator Richard
Mountjoy of Monrovia, who never had a chance.
It is similar in other ways to Feinstein’s reelection
drive last year, when several Republicans vied for the GOP nomination against
her, but none was adequately funded for a serious run and all were previous
political unknowns who soon faded back into obscurity. Anti-autism activist
Elizabeth Emken won the GOP nod, but lost the election by a 63-37 percent
margin – meaning she drew virtually no votes beyond the bare-bones Republican
The early list of prospects to run against Brown next
fall is short so far: Onetime state Sen. and ex-appointive Lt. Gov. Abel
Maldonado, who has not formally declared, has some name identification around
the state despite having been beaten soundly by Democrat Gavin Newsom when
trying for the lieutenant governor’s office on his own in 2010.
State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Hesperia also has a bit
of a public profile – but not for positive reasons. This early enlistee in the
anti-undocumented immigrant Minutemen organization is best known for trying to
carry a Colt pistol onto an airliner at Ontario International Airport in
January 2012. Donnelly's run for governor (he was the first to declare) comes
after getting three years probation when he pleaded no contest to reduced
charges of carrying a gun into a city without a permit and carrying a
prohibited item into a sterile area. Donnelly has never admitted he had no
concealed weapon permit when caught with the gun in his attaché case.
Also lurking in the Republican weeds is Orange County
Supervisor John Moorlach, a former county treasurer.
One statewide GOP official summed up the prospective
candidates in two words, “serious problem.”
The short list has already produced its share of
intra-party sniping and maneuvering. Billionaire physicist Charles Munger Jr.,
son of the partner of renowned investor Warren Buffett, says he will donate to
Maldonado’s campaign in gratitude for Maldonado’s fathering the state’s
three-year-old “top two” primary system. There were no limits on what Munger
could contribute to the initiative campaigns for top two and two other measures
he funded last year, but there are strict limits on what he can give directly
to Maldonado this time.
Maldonado is also derided by the GOP’s leading anti-tax
advocate, Grover Norquist, head of the advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform
and the main purveyor of the “no new taxes” pledge many Republicans sign before
running for office.
Noting that as a state senator in 2009, Maldonado voted
for a temporary tax increase, Norquist told a reporter that “If you’re a
Republican who raised taxes, how can anyone trust you? The state’s worse off
because he did it.”
Besides that, Maldonado last year proved unable to defeat
the vulnerable Democratic Congresswoman Lois Capps in a district with far less
of a Democratic plurality than her party’s current statewide edge.
It’s almost absurd to think Brown, who has vied with the
likes of ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, billionaire Whitman and a sitting attorney
general in Evelle Younger, worries much about the Republicans now lining up.
If Poizner or some other billionaire capable of writing
personal checks to finance a major campaign were to enter the lists, Brown
might be given some pause.
But right now he looks as secure as any 2014 candidate in
America, even though he hasn’t said a word about running.
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.