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Arnold’s Savior, or Taliban in a Chicken Suit?

Steve Frank has a career in political activism spanning four decades. But
the 58-year-old Republican might be best known as the man in the chicken
suit.

During the 2002 elections, Frank shadowed Gray Davis in the suit–meant to
symbolize Davis’ refusal to debate–shouting questions at the then-governor
and advisor Garry South at campaign stops and even the state Democratic
Convention. Democratic consultant Roger Salazar said that the frequency with
which Frank would show up in the suit showed real dedication–and worked in
multiple ways to annoy Democrats.

“God he smelled awful in that chicken suit,” Salazar said “Chicken
suit-in-the-hot-sun awful.”

“That’s usually something you can get a college Republican to do, not a man
in his 50s,” said Mike Spence, president of the conservative California
Republican Assembly.

But Frank does serious jobs as well, once serving in the office Spence now
holds. Despite his sometimes outrageous stunts and often outspoken rhetoric,
Spence said, Frank stays pretty quite about the behind-the scenes work he
does for various Republicans.

“Steve has an amazing rolodex,” Spence said. “He knows conservatives up and
down California and across the country.”

This rolodex has made him sought-after by Republicans, Spence said. Over the
years, Frank has worked against bilingual education and on behalf of
Republican candidates such as Bill Jones and Bill Simon. These days, Frank
is out stumping for the governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s initiative
campaigns.

Frank has spent most of his life establishing the connections he is now
mining on behalf of the Schwarzenegger. When many other young Californians
were protesting the Vietnam War, Frank was volunteering for Richard Nixon
and Ronald Reagan. A veteran of that war, Frank was also active in prisoner
and MIA groups.

Frank was an early-adopter of one California-based fad, launching his
“Frankly Speaking” Internet newsletter in 1995. He said the newsletter now
has 233,000 subscribers.

While “Frankly Speaking” and his new CA Political News and Views web site
have quietly brought him to the attention of thousands of like-minded
conservatives, the views he has expressed–or perhaps the way he expressed
them–may also show why Frank himself has never been successful in his two
Assembly bids and a mayoral run in Simi Valley.

For instance, earlier this year Frank attacked the credibility of ambassador
Joseph Wilson for admitting that he had used drugs in the 1960s, saying that
Wilson opposed Bush for “burning down the poppy fields in Afghanistan and
the marijuana fields in our nations forests,” and that “he and Cindy Sheehan
can go off to the mountains of Santa Cruz and puff away.”

“There are times I say things flippantly or satirically to show how off the
wall the left wing is,” Frank said of the quote. “Some of the stuff Howard
Dean says seems like a comedy act.”

Frank said that he has a particular way of speaking–which might explain why
he is so good at communicating with other conservatives, and less adept at
speaking to people of other political stripes. For example, when he says
“communist plot,” that’s not what he literally means.

“I don’t use the F-word,” Frank explained. “I use the term ‘communist plot’
instead.”

“Ideology-wise, Steve Frank is the Taliban of the Republican Party,” said
Democratic consultant Bob Mulholland. “He thinks women who get abortions
should be thrown in jail.”

“Steve can be fairly cutting edge,” countered Republican political
consultant Dan Schnur.

“[But] I’ve never seen anything in Steve Frank’s career that has approached
what Bob Mulholland has done.”
Schnur cited Mulholland’s press conference in front of a pornography store
in 1992, meant to smear Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Herschensohn,
who had allegedly shopped there. For his part, Mulholland said he and Frank
exchange pleasantries whenever they run into each other, despite the barbs
they often fling each other’s way.

Frank agreed, saying their rivalry goes back to 1981, when Frank helped
defeat Mulholland’s wife in a water board race in Humboldt County. The
good-natured feud features a number of incidents, such as Mulholland trying
to get Frank arrested–while wearing the chicken suit–during a Republican
rally in Sacramento during the recall.

But Frank said his favorite episode came a few years ago when Mulholland
accused him of not being a good Christian.

“I will admit that I’m not a good Christian,” Frank said. “I’m Jewish. There
are a few of us in the conservative movement.”


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