Sen. Dianne Feinstein must have been a saint in her past life, because in this life she enjoys high poll numbers, respect from people in both parties and Dick Mountjoy as her Republican opponent in her 2006 re-election.
"Who is he?" you might ask, if you're like most Californians. Mountjoy is a former state legislator, whose only other statewide run was for lieutenant governor in 1998, when he came in third in the GOP primary.
I like the guy. As an assemblyman in the 1990s, he championed the unsexy but important issue of workers' compensation reform. Later, he took on the gasoline additive MTBE.
At 74, Mountjoy is an acquired taste -- a plaid leisure suit of a man, a walking style crime, kin to your backslapping Uncle Ernie, who always cracked bad jokes, a token of a California that no longer exists. He's so corny that his bio claims he "failed kindergarten because he wouldn't talk. And he nearly failed the first grade because he wouldn't stop talking."
Mountjoy may be a mere two years older than DiFi, yet he seems to hail from an earlier generation. Mojo was mayor of Monrovia; DiFi was mayor of San Francisco. After Mountjoy graduated from high school and before he went to work at the Studebaker plant, he served on the battleship Missouri during the Korean War. After Feinstein graduated from Stanford, she saw carnage in 1978 when San Francisco Supervisor Dan White gunned down Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in City Hall. He's Old California. She's New California.
Mountjoy is so out of the California mainstream on abortion that he voted against state budgets just because they paid for the procedure.
On the other hand, he is in sync with the majority of voters on immigration -- his legislation provided the backbone for Proposition 187, the 1994 voter-approved measure that would have denied benefits to illegal immigrants, had it not been overturned by the courts. Ditto his opposition to same-sex marriage.
In the face of Feinstein's clear popularity among voters, it's impossible to imagine Mountjoy winning. When I ask GOP biggies what they think of his chances, they plead for me to change the subject and make me promise not to quote them by name.
Or they try to frame Mojo's candidacy as a good thing. After all, Mountjoy won't siphon off millions of campaign dollars sorely needed for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign.