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Slimin' Simon and His Gray Eminence

Stateside With Rosalea

Slimin' Simon and His Gray Eminence

I wasn't going to write about the California Governor's race so soon, having heard from a pollster that it won't get interesting till two weeks before the election, but really! the events of this week beggar even disbelief.

On Tuesday, a law enforcement group - acronym COPS - which was apparently recently spurned by Governor Davis, held a press conference complete with easel-sized photographs of then Lieutenant Governor Davis accepting a camaign cheque from the group's former leader. This photograph was purportedly taken in the Capitol building. Since the 1970s' round of election reforms, doing anything connected with campaign finances while using any facility or service you're entitled to as an office-holder has been illegal.

Gray Davis' Republican opponent, Bill Simon, had been told by the COPS about this supposed impropriety and was onto it like a rat up a drainpipe. "Chickenshit!" "Scummiest!" Those were two of the publishable words used by the Davis campaign manager in response. "A new low in campaigning...", so went the local TV report on KTVU on Tuesday night. By the end of Wednesday it had all blown over and 20 minutes of bulletin time had been freed upu again for other news.

But wait! I missed something. The buzz the previous weekend had been about the forthcoming TV debate between Davis and Simon, which had been organized by the 'Los Angeles Times'. Simon asked if the Green candidate, Peter Camejo, could be included in the debate, to which Governor Davis responded that if Camejo was included, he himself would not appear. The 'LA Times' said they wouldn't invite Camejo because he hadn't reached 15 percent in the polls (the de facto standard for a candidate's inclusion in a presidential debate).

OK, said Simon, and put Peter Camejo on his guest list for the invited audience at the debate. No way, said Davis, threatening a no-show again if Camejo was even allowed in the audience. Simon again capitulated. Whatever your feelings about minority parties, there are a couple of points to note about this. The 'LA Times' debate is probably the ONLY debate Davis and Simon will have on this campaign. Davis had previously refused to be in a debate arranged by local media frontman and 'SF Chronicle' columnist Emil Guillermo, and Davis's attitude is that debates just give his opponents the opportunity to get free publicity riding on his governish coat-tails.

To someone like me, from a parliamentary democracy where televised debates are de rigeur for party leaders, the cavalier attitude of His Eminence, the Governor of California, was gob-smacking, mind-boggling, in-your-face confirmation that, indeed, voters in the US are dead in the water at election time. They are starved of debate by pollies, campaign strategists, and a media hamstrung in its efforts to fulfill its public service requirements by having to rely on the politicians being willing to participate. Even the local TV political commentator said that morning - when the debate was still uncertain - that it was evidence of a "sham democracy". There should be six or seven debates, he said.

Well, hey, let's not get too much of a bad thing! I watched the first half hour of the 'LA Times' debate in the lunch room at work, and Simon's first two minutes were taken up completely with saying what a ratbag Gray Davis is. Like he hadn't already spent millions of dollars of his own money on campaign ads saying just the same thing. That's in reply to Davis' campaign ads about what a ratbag Simon is. Hey guys! Show me the policy!

There's a little matter here I want to mention a propos minor party candidates in the Governor's race, and my blanket generalisations about how little coverage they get. All does not go well when they *are* included, as a radio debate early in the campaign attests. The Libertarian candidate, Gary Copeland, earned himself the moniker 'spitting Druid' and was disowned by his party after spitting at the show's host (see http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/09/16/MN11463.DTL). Of the candidate for the Natural Law party, Iris Adam, and American Independent's Reinhold Gulke, I have heard not a thing. But at least the KTVU elections coverage promo features all their faces.

You also see the Greens' Peter Camejo's face in the promo, but did you get any news about the big rally he held on Tuesday night? No... the COPS story pre-empted it. And I can't tell you anything about it cos I'm tired of having to pay a door-charge to get informed. I wonder if anyone covered it. On my way to night class on BART on Wednesday night I picked up a discarded 'Argus' newspaper from down the Bay, to find a very large story - complete with photo of Camejo and Ralph Nader - about his exclusion from the 'LA Times' debate. The photo was taken at a press conference Camejo and Nader held at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon, so it's not like the 'Argus' reporter was off on some weird sidetrack.

And speaking of the Commonwealth Club - on Friday, Arnie was speaking there in support of his after-school proposition. I wondered if he wasn't going to announce that he's going to be a write-in candidate for the Republicans, now that Simon has shown himself to be such a patsy. The media is speculating that Richard Riordan (whom Simon defeated in the primaries) will put himself up as a write-in - he certainly hasn't discredited the idea. No doubt the reason my pollster friend said it wouldn't get interesting until two weeks before the election is because the Elections Code says a write-in candidate has to declare their availability 14 days before the election.

Write-in candidates can have a significant impact on elections, and the practice is very common.(There is a space on the ballot paper for you to write in a name other than those printed on the ballot.) Official write-in candidates have to have a requisite number of signatures and supply their name, residence address, and a declaration of willingness to stand. The statement and nomination papers "shall be available" on the 57th day prior to the election and shall be delivered to the elections official no later than the 14th day prior to the election. That phrase "shall be available" is a mystery to me. Available to whom? I guess it's to the elections official, which - in the case of the State races - is California's Secretary of State, Bill Simon. He's the Republican primary candidate that I predicted would beat Richard Riordan back in March and become the next Governor of California.

It's not too late to prove me right, Bill!

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