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It’s fair to say California has had more than its share of interesting candidates whose places on the spectrum of political personality ranges from the merely eccentric to the way out there.
In the 1910s, Hiram Johnson carried the banner of “progressivism” as Governor, Senator and later as candidate for president and vice-president. The recall mechanism used to toss out Governor Gray Davis and install Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Johnson legacy.
Another was Upton Sinclair, the socialist author who captured the Democratic nomination for government in 1934 and whose radically left-wing “End Poverty in California” platform terrified the Republican Democratic establishment alike.
Schwarzenegger is the most famous extant example. His path to power traced from body builder to schlock movie star to governor of California. And the man who might be our next governor – Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown — holds a special place as the most eccentric and left-wing chief executive the state has ever had. This was the man who once said, “The government is becoming the family of last resort” and used his eight-year tenure in the 1970s to push every extreme left-wing idea on earth through Sacramento.
Brown’s talent for lodging his foot in his mouth hasn’t abated with age. He has likened his opponent, Meg Whitman, to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, and steadfastly refused to discuss his own budgeting ideas for a state with one of the worst budget crises in the nation. A Brown policy speech earlier this year was described as was called “rambling, alternately vague and academic, and often pointless.”
California gubernatorial candidates don’t have a monopoly on strangeness. Candidates farther down the electoral food chain can be just as…well, off.
Take District Attorney Paul Gallegos of Humboldt County, for instance. Gallegos is running for re-election…despite his record. And this guy has ambitions to be one of California’s top law enforcement officers.
In 2006 the Eureka Reporter reported that Humbolt County had only filed one child abuse case in the first half year of 2006. Had child abuse suddenly disappeared from Humboldt County? After all in preceding years the county filed dozens of child abuse charges: 17 cases in 2005, 23 cases in 2004, 40 cases in 2003; 47 cases in 2002.
Even Gallegos admitted that he’d dropped the ball.
Also in 2006, Gallegos submitted an op-ed to the Eureka Times-Standard, segments of which were plagiarized from an academic paper by Robert Louis Felix written in 2000.
In 2008, Gallegos screwed the pooch in a high-profile case against the Pacific Lumber Company (PLACO). It was so badly mishandled the judge dismissed the whole thing and washed his hands of it.
The PLACO case was Gallegos’s attempt to push himself into the political limelight. As Gallegos opponent Paul Hagen said afterward, “Gallegos’ decision to prosecute PLACO was a political one, make no mistake. Political prosecutions are never a good idea.”
The civil complaint was poorly charged, forcing Gallegos’ office to twice amend it during trial. Even so, the trial court ultimately dismissed it on a “demurrer,” which is a motion asserting the case lacks the basic essentials to go to trial. The dismissal was “without leave to amend,” meaning the trial court found the allegations incapable of proceeding. The appellate court was even less kind.
This year, Gallegos seems to be aiming for the support of pro-medical marijuana fans – it is Humboldt County, after all — by drafting a county-wide measure allowing marijuana growers to have up to 99 plants on their property. One of Gallegos’ opponents, Allison Jackson described this example of pot pandering as a “99-plant get out of jail free card.”
Capping off his banner year of political grandstanding is the now-notorious Skilled Healthcare, case in which Gallegos seemed to be ignoring juror misconduct — misconduct he allegedly witnessed but did not report to the court — misconduct that might have ended up invalidating the whole trial.
So why focus on the District Attorney of one of California’s less populous, far-northern counties? Because the politically-unbalanced minor candidate of today can become the politically-unbalanced statewide candidate of tomorrow. To those who scoff at this notion, I have a two-word response: Kamala Harris. Better to tag and track hacks like Gallegos today so we can be for-armed in the future.