- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Time and again, stalwart Republicans have proved that, if given a choice between Republican-Lite and the Real Thing, they will select the Real Thing. California's stalwart Republicans apparently are no different. After all, in 1966 they overwhelmingly selected self-described Goldwater Republican Ronald Reagan, a political neophyte, in their party's gubernatorial primary over a former San Francisco mayor. Today, if late pre-election polls prove to be accurate, California's stalwart Republicans the kind of Republicans who vote in primaries will repeat that feat. Those polls strongly suggest that California Republicans and the independents who vote in the GOP primary are likely to select as the Republican Party's nominee for governor political neophyte Bill Simon Jr., a businessman with impeccable conservative credentials, who has overcome a 33-point deficit against former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

The moderate Mr. Riordan has declared that Mr. Simon is "too extreme" to win a general election in November. Like Mr. Reagan, Mr. Simon opposes abortion. Like Mr. Reagan, Mr. Simon favors a reduction in the capital gains tax. Like Mr. Reagan, Mr. Simon has pledged not to raise taxes to bridge the state's yawning budget gap. Like Mr. Reagan, he favors cutting spending, and he has promised to initiate a state hiring freeze. Like Mr. Reagan, Mr. Simon, a former federal prosecutor, has been given the seal of approval by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his opposition to gun control.

Like Jimmy Carter, Mr. Riordan favors "zero-based budgeting." Mr. Riordan has flip-flopped on both on abortion and gun control during his political career and now attacks Mr. Simon for the "A" he has earned from the NRA. While Mr. Riordan favors appointing a science adviser to emphasize the need for science education in the state's decrepit public-school systems, Mr. Simon favors establishing more charter schools.

Particularly offensive to many Republican stalwarts is the fact that Mr. Riordan has contributed more than $1 million to Democratic campaigns and political causes, including a donation to the campaign of a liberal opponent of George Deukmejian, the Republican who was twice elected governor of California.

Today's conventional wisdom dictates that Democrats now safely control California. Both U.S. senators are Democrats. Gov. Gray Davis won a resounding victory in 1998. And Democratic candidates in the last two presidential elections each carried the state by 1.3 million votes.

If the unabashedly conservative Mr. Simon prevails today, conventional wisdom will no doubt write him off in November as a political neophyte up against an entrenched Democratic incumbent. That's what the conventional wisdom said in 1966 about an earlier stalwart conservative Republican actor who entered electoral politics to contest the Democratic incumbent for the California governorship. But, as history records, the conventional wisdom was wrong then. Mr. Simon may prove it wrong again.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide