Gumby needs a foil
Debra J. Saunders
9/2/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Those of you who aren't happy with the depressing prospect of
Gray Davis winning a second term as governor, take heart. You can make Davis
unhappy in turn -- by saddling the Oval Office-ogling governor with a
Republican lieutenant governor.
When Gumby leaves the state to squeeze contributors in New York
or Palm Beach, his Republican understudy would serve in his place --
preferably as a scold who could remind the public of the business to which
Davis is not attending.
Ah, sweet revenge.
The best part is that the GOP nominee for the job, state Sen.
Bruce McPherson, is the type of Republican -- he's a Santa Cruz native son
who favors abortion rights and works well with enviros -- whom a lot of
Democrats could fall for.
He's also a good Republican who voted against the Senate budget
bill because, despite a $24 billion shortfall, it included new programs and
barely cut spending. McPherson understands that, without more cuts, the
shortfall will linger for years.
Californians have elected gadfly lieutenant governors before.
Repub Mike Curb tormented Dem Gov. Jerry Brown; when Brown was out of state,
stumping for the White House, Curb would appoint judges and issue contrary
Gray Davis was less of an obstructionist when he served as
lieutenant to Gov. Pete Wilson. But Davis did look overly eager and
ambitious when he offered a $50,000 reward for information about the murder
of Bill Cosby's 27-year-old son, Ennis, while Wilson was out of the country.
After the Cosby family balked at the reward, Wilson rescinded it.
McPherson's Sacramento office is lined with photos of fellow
legislators and family members who helped shape California: A great uncle
served in the Assembly; his great-grandfather published the Santa Cruz
Sentinel. McPherson is dressed stylishly in shades of brown, with a small
silver pin on his jacket that serves as a reminder of his 27-year-old son,
Hunter, shot to death during a botched Potrero Hill robbery last year.
When insiders hear McPherson's name, they often smile and say,
""Oh yeah, I like him.''
McPherson said he wouldn't be a Mike Curb but that when he saw
pressing problems not being addressed, he would "step up and make a
statement, and this would go whether it's Bill Simon -- and I don't honestly
think that's going to happen -- or Gray Davis.''
Does McPherson have a shot? Yes. McPherson noted the incumbent,
Democrat Cruz Bustamante, "is not highly respected by members of his own
party.'' That's an understatement. The biggest piece of news Cruz Bustamante
made this year was when he sent a gushing letter touting Bill Simon as one
of the state's most valued business leaders. OK, so the letter went out
before a jury found one of Simon's companies guilty of fraud.
Bustamante's coffers speak volumes. While incumbent Dems Bill
Lockyer (attorney general) and Phil Angelides (treasurer) had more than $6
mil each in the bank last month, Bustamante had a third of that stashed
away. McPherson had $800,000, but he believes he can win even if he's
outspent by more than 2 to 1.
After saying that he didn't think Simon would win, McPherson
corrected himself and emphasized that he wouldn't count Simon out.
Yes, the fat lady hasn't sung. Still, if Simon tanks, he could
hurt the GOP's down-ticket candidates. If he hurts them badly enough, there
may be no Republican in statewide office. California would become a
squabbling one-party state.
If McPherson isn't the party's strongest hope of getting one
Republican into statewide office, he's close. As pollster Mark Baldassare of
the Public Policy Institute of California noted, McPherson's government
experience means that he's "road-tested'' -- ahem, unlike Simon -- and his
positions reflect those of the moderate and independent voters whom
Republicans need to win the big seats.
In fact, it's a true shame that McPherson is the nominee for
lieutenant governor, not governor.
But at least he can provide voters with one vote they can feel
good about -- and not just because it will drive Gray Davis nuts.