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by Tricky Dick
Wednesday, Jul. 30, 2003 at 10:40 PM
Our next Governor might be Green
From the San Jose Mercury News
Posted on Tue, Jul. 29, 2003
If there's no Democrat on the ballot, Green Party candidate could win
By Larry N. Gerston
It's Oct. 8, the day after California's historic election in which the voters have recalled Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with . . . Peter Camejo? Don't rule it out.
This election will be organized differently from all others. On Oct. 7, the candidate who gets the most votes will win the highest office in a state with an economy (admittedly battered) equivalent to the fifth-largest nation in the world. There will be no party primaries to select nominees, which would leave a tidy general election ballot of six or seven names before the voters. Rather, dozens of candidates -- perhaps as many as 100 or more -- will file for an opportunity to become captain of the California Titanic. With so many candidates, someone could win with as little as 10 or 12 percent of the vote.
So how does that turn Green Party candidate Peter Camejo into Governor Camejo?
The recall ballot will have two parts. The first question will be whether the voters want to recall Davis. The second question on the same ballot will ask voters to choose from a long list of replacement candidates in the event that Davis is recalled.
Imagine that the Democrats actually stick to their game plan and refuse to field any candidate of note. At the same time, a dozen or so well-known Republicans and lots of others place their names on the ballot along with Camejo. Now the plot thickens.
Imagine that Davis loses his recall fight and that sizable numbers of Democrats who voted to retain the governor cast their votes for Camejo. For some, it will be because Camejo is the choice closest to moderate-to-liberal Davis. For others, it will be a way to stick it to the Republican conservatives who created this mess in the first place. Add the Democratic vote to the 5 percent that Camejo received when he ran for governor in 2002, and it could be a runaway for the most liberal candidate in the bunch.
How liberal? Camejo favors a statewide ``living wage,'' rejects Ward Connerly's racial privacy initiative, supports the legalization of marijuana, opposes capital punishment and was an early, vocal critic of the invasion of Iraq. Result: While conservative Republicans may succeed in tossing out their nemesis, they may pave the way for election of the most liberal governor in the state's history.
Think it's out of the question? That's what they said in Minnesota in 1998, when the voters chose former Navy Seal and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura over mainstream candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties. That's what they said in 1998 when Green Party Candidate Audie Bock -- who may be on the Oct. 7 recall ballot as a Democrat -- sneaked by former Oakland Mayor and Assembly member Elihu Harris to capture an Assembly seat. In politics, no matter how people may wish to choreograph outcomes, sometimes the unpredictable happens.
On Oct. 7, under not such outrageous conditions, conservatives could oust Democrat Davis only to be stuck with someone who makes Davis look like a (gulp) conservative.
Moral to the story? Conservatives had better be careful what they wish for -- they might get a lot more.
Larry N. Gerston is a professor of political science at San Jose State University and a political analyst at NBC11. He wrote this column for the Mercury News.
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