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Big Daddy: Capitol staffers and the campaign trail

Hey, Big Daddy:

I just started working in the state Capitol and am ready to dazzle the world with my policy analyses, but I’ve been dispatched to a campaign for the final weeks. Any tips for handling a farmer’s tan?

Bronzed in Bakersfield

Dear Bronzed,

Put down the caffeine and pick up the sun screen because you’re going through a Sacramento rite of passage! Many young Capitol “policy” staffers have come to Sacramento thinking that fancy book learning is all you need. But this place runs on politics and, as they say, “elections have consequences.” None of your great ideas will mean anything unless your team has the votes.

Now’s the time to scratch that travel itch.

If a house has a really high fence and gate, that means a voracious dog that has “never bitten anyone” lives there and is waiting for you to step onto the property.

It’s not just exciting places like Bakersfield – but, hey, who doesn’t love Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace? Think of your other options. Why not Riverside and the Van Buren Drive-In Theatre? Or, Chowchilla? There’s a pretty sweet prison there. So many options, so little time.

Don’t just think of it as a vacation, think of it as an unpaid vacation!

Once you have your district assignment, road trip with a good friend. Or, make sure your radio can play really loud. You learn all sorts of things on these campaign excursions, particularly hygiene habits of fellow travelers. Load up the phone with lots of podcasts because those drives can get long – very, very long.  And, don’t forget the sensible footwear.

When you report to the campaign office, smile, keep your opinions to yourself and quickly take your campaign materials. Pop off about the inefficiency of the campaign office at your peril.  Anger the wrong staffer and you’ll get that primo precinct assignment in the worst part of the district.

Key tip: If a house has a really high fence and gate, that means a voracious dog that has “never bitten anyone” lives there and is waiting for you to step onto the property. They are really fast…

In the old days, you could just take your precinct packet, throw it in the garbage and head for the nearest bar. But, no longer! These smart tablets can track you. WTF??!! With Big Brother looking over your shoulder, the fun quotient has definitely gone in the basement (where, again, they can track you).

After a long day of walking a district, the sun does take its toll. But, democracy is worth it! You’ve had a chance to leave your Sacramento bubble, meet new people and learn that people are complicated – and way smarter than we think they are in our Capitol smug cloud. Turns out they’re not slack-jawed droolers after all and can actually spot when a candidate or campaign has a lot more dollars than sense.

With a new appreciation for the public’s innate B.S. Meter, maybe you can return to Sacramento ready for some hardcore policy action supplemented with some good ‘ole common sense. Maybe some shades of gray (sounds kinky) will appear in your policy work and you can move from young Padawan to Jedi master.

Don’t worry, these “voluntary mandatory” trips only happen every two years. LWOP is only four little letters. And, as for your Farmer’s Tan, you should exfoliate your skin every day, choose the best exfoliation method (I prefer a loofah), and consider a milk bath to speed up skin removal. Take care of yourself.

And, remember, you get to do this again in 730 days!

Ed’s Note: The ghost of Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, who served as Assembly speaker and state treasurer, offers political advice to anyone who will pay attention. 


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