Dear Big Daddy,
I’m an Assembly staff member who has taken my vacation days to help Nicole Parra win elections, without her thanks. How am I supposed to feel about Parra practically endorsing the Republican candidate?
— Hanford Stinks
Dear Smells Like Mean Spirit,
So you’re wondering how you ended up with that “kick me” sign on your back. Actually, it’s right there on your business card — where it says “Assembly” and it isn’t followed by “member.” Why do staffers get all those little holidays sprinkled throughout the year? Maybe because your actual vacations are spent running from angry dogs and getting yelled at by old men who really, really want you to get off their damn lawn.
But having that kick-me sign always hurts more when it’s put there by a pretty lady. And the Hottie from Hanford and I pretty well define opposite ends of the legislative attractiveness index. Sometimes I wonder if two decades ago when Pete Schabarum was dreaming up the term limits initiative that would forever mark his name on California politics like a set of initials chain-sawed into an old-growth redwood, maybe he was just trying to get some younger eye candy on the politics pages. Term limits haven’t much changed the ideological mix in the Leg, but they have created a “Logan’s Run” scenario putting perky young butts in legislative chairs (cue image of Jack Scott and Dave Cox running from guys with lasers).
Getting mistreated by your elders is considered normal. We’ve all had some version of the scenario where granny offers you a dime to paint her entire house, tells you that you can buy lots of pennywhistles for that, and then calls you by your cousin’s name. It’s a bit different when the person treating you like a bag of what Hanford smells like is your age and wants you to work harder so they have time to go barhopping with Bonnie and Fiona (though that combo makes me wish I still had a butt to put on a barstool).
But consider why you were in Hanford in the first place. The California Legislature has maybe two or three competitive general elections per cycle. It’s not worth the party’s time to send you to Santa Cruz to be offered fine cheeses, chardonnay and bong hits at every door you knock on. Democratic party higher-ups knew perfectly well they would invest big and get only a semi-Democrat in return. While GOP ads have tried to portray Parra as equal parts Rosie O’Donnell and Che Guevara, the voters knew perfectly well they were getting more of a Raquel Welch/Joe Lieberman combo.
Say what you will about Sacramento’s favorite guest bartender, but after winning three of the toughest general elections in recent Leg history by a combined two votes, she may feel entitled to endorse her former opponent, Danny Gilmore — by all reports a nice guy with whom she was forced to undergo a truly brutal campaign. If the two of them came out of that feeling like they’d shared something, stranger things have happened.
Call it Kingsburg Syndrome. Seriously, do. I want to coin that. It’s the tendency of two opponents who have been through a very rough contest against each other to become friends.
I tend to think most endorsements mean little to voters, though in a seat this close they might actually matter. But it’s not like this Parra-Florez feud popped into existence last week. Lots of folks saw Parra’s dis-endorsement of Fran Florez coming months ago. Still, it’s smart to be nice to your campaign staff. Parra just dropped her idea of running for state Senate, and it just might be because no one wanted her to win bad enough to go live in a Motel 6 next to a fertilizer plant.
So my question to you is this: Are you upset because Parra didn’t thank you, or is this mainly a way of griping about a system that demands your free time like an overly possessive girlfriend (without the benefits)? Because there could be help for the latter issue.
Until we redraw the lines to get competitive districts — and until it isn’t treated like disloyalty to challenge an incumbent in a primary — there’s really no point in having all these elections. It might be tough to get voters to approve terms of six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, but how about an initiative making the Assembly two three-year terms? I bet you’d go door to door for that.