Wannabes and also-rans

Posted: Sep 13, 2002 12:00 AM
Since Gov. Gray Davis and GOP rival Bill Simon are so repugnant, why don't you write about the third-party candidates for governor, readers have asked. Tell voters about Green Party candidate Peter Camejo, they demand. I've been slow to respond. For one thing, Camejo's a Green. I'm a Republican. I want ant traps that work. I want cheap energy. I drive a car. Then the Commonwealth Club held a forum for the four third-party gubernatorial hopefuls on Sept. 9. I could take my medicine in one hour. The bottom line was no surprise: The candidates are fringies. Natural Law Party candidate Iris Adam blames sick people for being sick -- she says more than 70 percent of diseases are preventable -- and argues that the best way to fight crime is with stress-reduction programs. American Independent Party candidate Ron Gulke argued that it's justifiable to execute an innocent man on death row rather than let a guilty man go free. He said he'd balance the state budget by raising the speed limit for trucks. Libertarian Gary Copeland said he'd let victims' families decide the punishment of murderers and, if elected, he wouldn't work with state lawmakers. That may antagonize some voters, but this will please others: Copeland wants to legalize all drugs. My beef? Copeland has that "I'm-so-enlightened" tone special to Libertarians. As he told the audience, "If anyone has seen 'The Matrix,' take the red pill." Camejo clearly was the forum favorite. For one thing, he told the best political jokes, as in: The Greens have "two people out there really convincing people all over the state to register Green" -- (drum roll) Bill Simon and Gray Davis. And: How do you get a politician to do a 180-degree turn? "Tell him the check bounced." Still, most voters probably wouldn't agree with his call for "100 percent renewable energy." Camejo later explained he'd tax nonrenewable energy to subsidize solar technology. Sounds good, if you can forget that new taxes likely would cripple the struggling state economy. Judging by the success of Proposition 187 -- the anti-illegal immigration measure approved by voters in 1994 -- most voters probably wouldn't agree with Camejo's assertion that it's wrong to call illegal immigrants "undocumented" because they're "the indigenous people of this continent." Camejo lacks fluency with some issues. He argued that Arkansas spends more than California per pupil, and his staff cited a San Francisco Chronicle story to corroborate him. It turns out Camejo misread a 2001 Chronicle story that reported that spending for AK -- that's oil-rich Alaska, not Arkansas -- was higher than California. As for critics who say that Greens only siphon off Democratic votes, Camejo responded, "Their answer is that we don't run." He wants an instant-runoff mechanism so that voters could vote Green, then vote for someone else when the Green tanks. I understand the frustration that voters on the left, right and center feel when they look at candidates Davis and Simon. But who said voting is supposed to be pretty? Those of you who are thinking of registering your discontent by voting for a third-party candidate must understand that a vote for Camejo -- in lieu of Davis -- is at the very least half a vote for Simon. Likewise, a vote for Copeland -- in lieu of Simon -- is at the very least half a vote for Davis. And the third-party candidates aren't exactly perfect, either.