Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 11, 2003

Election season begins to percolate

The election season is beginning to percolate, pleasing political and news junkies like me. We don’t crave fixes of caffeine, we need jolts of polls, strategy, gaffes and ballots.

Just when it seemed the first election of the season would be the Gilroy City Council and Mayoral races – and more on those shortly – the recall Gray Davis effort scored more than a million petition signatures, meaning Californians could be voting on the governor’s future as soon as October.

No matter where you stand on the recall issue, you have to admit this episode is fascinating. Assuming Davis is booted out of office (and with a recent poll showing 51 percent of Californians favoring that outcome, it’s looking like a real possibility), candidates are waiting in the wings to replace him.

Darrell Issa is the conservative Republican Congressman from Southern California who spent more than $1 million on the recall effort. Questions have been raised about Issa’s past, and others wonder if it’s seemly to elect as governor a man who substantially funded the recall Davis campaign.

Of course, the most intriguing Republican name is the three-time Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. While promoting the release of his current movie, Schwarzenegger has encouraged the recall effort and done little to squash speculation that he might run for the top job should Davis be fired by California voters.

A question for Republicans, who didn’t nominate a socially moderate, fiscally conservative candidate (Richard Riordan) to run against Davis in 2002, is will they vote for a similar candidate (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to replace Davis?

But things are also interesting on the Gilroy election front. Although no new candidates have filed yet – they have at least until Aug. 8 to file the necessary papers – one name might be out of the running.

With news of Councilman Charlie Morales’ latest arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence, he’s no longer a viable option to challenge incumbent Tom Springer or Councilman Al Pinheiro for the mayor’s job. The incident also means the very real possibility that Morales might resign looms over the City Council election.

If Morales does resign, his seat would likely be filled by an appointee who would serve until the next general election – which is scheduled for this November. That means not four, but five of the seven City Council seats (including the mayoral seat) could be on the November ballot. A Morales resignation would make what is already a pivotal Gilroy election an unprecedented one.

Then there’s the 2004 presidential race, which ought to be full of intrigue by now. Instead, it’s a real yawn. On the Republican side, the only drama was whether or not President George W. Bush would dump Vice-President Dick Cheney and select another running mate. The president has said his campaign bumber stickers will read Bush-Cheney ‘04, so there are no unanswered questions for the Republican ticket.

The Democrats, even with nine candidates in the running, can’t generate a bump on the interest meter. Do any of the Democratic candidates get you excited about the electoral process?

One non-candidate has piqued my interest – retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark. Clark is a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and West Point graduate, who I got to know, as did millions of my fellow news junkies, during CNN’s coverage of the war in Iraq. Clark and anchorman Aaron Brown were my nightly companions during the live-on-TV war.

Now, a draft-Clark-to-run-for-president movement has erupted. A Yahoo search reveals several Web sites dedicated to the cause, and Clark has not eliminated the possibility. We don’t even know yet which party affiliation Clark might claim, although speculation is that he’d run as a Democrat.

If he does, he might actually give Bush a run for his money, and he has eerie similarities to the man who unexpectedly denied the first President Bush a second term: Bill Clinton.

Like Clinton, Clark is from Arkansas, has one child, and was a Rhodes scholar. He also is given little chance by political pundits of unseating a incumbent president (coincidentally, also named George Bush) riding high after a Middle East war victory.

Of course, there are many differences, not the least of which is Clark’s extensive military service. But if Clark does run, we might actually have an interesting presidential race on our hands.

One that wouldn’t require vast amounts of caffeine to watch.

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