Big Daddy

Hey Big Daddy,
So, it looks like Tom Campbell is now dipping his toes into the gubernatorial waters. Your thoughts?
Meg in Palo Alto

Dear Meg,

The relationships you have with people in Sacramento rarely have anything to do with political party. More than party identification, there are just certain personalities that are drawn together, and others, well, not so much. And there’s something about Tom Campbell and his ilk that I just don’t trust.

There’s something very Stepford Wives about the entire Campbell for Governor enterprise. Anyone who has ever met the man can tell you what I’m talking about. There’s just nothing to criticize. He’s so immaculately dressed without being flashy, the sweet boy down the street in the Dockers and pink Polo shirt. He’s so approachable, so even-tempered, so … nice! I’m just not sure we’re ready for that in the governor’s office.

Californians have been pretty consistent about picking governors who have a well-crafted fictional persona (see Reagan, Ronald or Schwarzenegger, Arnold), or have some deep-seated psychological demons to purge by running for office – preferably daddy issues (see Brown, Jerry or Davis, Gray).

You get the feeling that Tom Campbell has never had a hangover, or gotten an A Minus. That makes him immediately suspect. It’s just a personal preference. I happen to like my politicians to be able to spit fire and cuss like truck drivers. They’ve gotta be able to show up for work after a late night on two hours sleep, with their hair smelling like cigarettes, having forgotten to shave (whether it be their face or their legs).

But looking at the current crop of GOP wanna-bes, you’ve gotta ask yourself, who’s going to be the conservative in the race? Meg Whitman seems to be cuddling up to John McCain every chance she gets (you can thank Steve Schmidt for that one. Wonder who would run her campaign if she does decide to enter the fray), but she’s no conservative standard bearer. Steve Poizner is what you’d get if Bill Gates dropped a few zeros from his bankroll, sucked down some helium and decided to run for Insurance Commissioner.

And then there’s Campbell, the kind of guy you’d want holding your hand as he told you you were going to die a nice, slow painful death from scabies, rheumatoid arthritis and some kind of unnamed flesh-eating bacteria. He’s as mild as a glass of milk, and about as exciting as paste.

This field is just calling out for some knuckle-dragger with a fat wallet to jump in, and crush everyone else by 30 points. Or, the party can just write off the entire enterprise, and hope that Eastern California secedes from the coast.

Let’s be clear — the governor’s race has never been a Mr. Excitement competition (see Deukmejian, George and Wilson, Pete). But Democrats have some star power gearing up for 2010, and I ain’t talkin’ about John Garamendi. I’m just not so sure the Republican answer to that riddle is going to be Tom Campbell.

The truth is, Tom Campbell could have been a U.S. Senator for life. Politically, he’s about where California is – fiscally conservative, socially liberal. (Remember, this is the guy who advocated the legalization of drugs during his 2000 Senate run as the sacrificial lamb to the Dianne Feinstein reelection juggernaut.)

Campbell lost a close, and closed, GOP primary to Caveman Bruce Herschensohn in 1992, in the race to face Barbara Boxer.  If Campbell had won that primary, he would have beaten Boxer like a drum. But then again, if my aunt had a pair, she’d be my uncle.
All this by way of saying, I don’t detect any great groundswell clamoring for a Campbell candidacy, or sense any zillionaires out there ready to bankroll the guy against Poizner and/or Whitman. Governors do have a way of winning by default in this state, but the stars would have to align almost magically to get Campbell in the corner office.

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