Debra J. Saunders

Her brother, Baker wrote, kept giant-sized jars of Midol to be "deliberately sexist" as well as aspirin to discourage "whiners and complainers." He held himself to the same standards to which he held others. After sending a letter of resignation to Brown because he wanted a pay raise, Collins followed it with another letter to "rescind the crybaby letter of resignation." His reasoning? "You and I both know you are impossible." And: "I am old-fashioned enough to still believe in respect for the office. So I cannot address you as 'Jerry' in our conversations or in those with others."

Collins closed, "My main problem in years to come will be erasing the taint of having worked for you. Perhaps you could supply me with a prison record for the time I spent here. If I don't get a raise, I will go into a sulk and will bad mouth you throughout the Capitol."

Most famously, when he was director of the California Conservation Corps and Brown was taking heat for ordering the spraying of the insecticide Malathion, Collins publicly drank a glass of water diluted with the chemical to show it was safe. Case closed.

After Wilson appointed Collins to head the California Youth Authority, Collins issued a controversial edict: He refused to read letters from the incarcerated with misspellings and grammatical errors. Editorial boards were aghast.

At the time, Collins told The Chronicle, "I dare the ACLU to sue me for depriving (the wards) of their right to be ignorant. I'm looking at these letters -- they're all the standard kind that say, 'this guy hit me,' 'this guy is a snitch' -- it's 15, 16 hours a day reading these, and I'm thinking, 'These little a------- better learn to use some proper grammar.'"

After Wilson asked him to run for a vacant Assembly seat, Collins did and won. Collins understood that not only was it important that a Republican win the Carmichael (Sacramento County) district, but more important, that Wilson needed a Republican in the Legislature who understood how to get things done.

Earlier this month, six Republicans -- Assemblymen Anthony Adams, Roger Niello, Mike Villines and Sens. Dave Cogdill, Roy Ashburn and Abel Maldonado -- voted for a painful budget package that raised $12.5 billion in taxes and cut spending by $14.9 billion. They did what they believed had to be done -- instead of what came easy. For their trouble, attendees at the state GOP convention held but days later voted to withhold support for their re-election campaigns. Alas, today's political environment mistakes wearing blinders (that prevent seeing how bad things have gotten) for principle.

Baker believes her brother was so successful in Sacramento because he put service first. "His theory -- better to be a reluctant warrior than a desperate candidate. Desperate people will do and say anything."

Debra J. Saunders

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