SACRAMENTO — It was not a Republican resurgence but rather the victory of a moderate Democrat that encouraged Rep. Tom Campbell (R-San Jose) to make a second bid for the U.S. Senate.
Campbell announced his candidacy Friday for the seat now held by Dianne Feinstein and said that as a political centrist he was heartened by Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' landslide win on a moderate platform.
"This is the moment for the independent person in California," Campbell said, grinning.
Because of California's open primary, for which Campbell campaigned, voters can cast ballots for any political party in March. Campbell hopes to entice moderate Democrats to back him by emphasizing his independence from GOP party bounds.
He supports abortion rights, gun control and environmental protections and opposed Newt Gingrich's attempt at a second House speaker term, but firmly believes the federal government should be thinned down.
Campbell's fiscal conservatism recently earned him the title of "cheapest man in Congress" in a National Taxpayers Union ranking, but he opposes the proposed state initiative banning gay marriages because he believes it is unnecessary and "I personally don't think it's anybody's business whether you're gay or straight."
These policies are consistent, he insists, because they are all about protecting personal freedoms.
"What's America's greatest achievement?" he said. "It's individual freedom."
Campbell's entrance into the race expands a Republican field that already includes two businessmen--software entrepreneur Ron Unz and Orange County banking consultant J.P. Gough--as well as two other politicians: San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn and Riverside's state Sen. Ray Haynes.
Though he declined to compare himself to the other candidates, Campbell sought to characterize himself as competitive with Feinstein by releasing his own polling data. It showed him within striking distance of the Democratic incumbent in next November's election by an 11-point margin, 48% to 37%, and was compiled before Campbell announced he would run.
The finding caused him to say he was declaring his candidacy "with optimism."
The Haynes and Feinstein campaigns sent workers bearing news releases reacting to Campbell's announcement in Sacramento.
In his release, Haynes criticized Campbell as too similar to Feinstein for voters to differentiate between the two.
In hers, Feinstein included a quote from Campbell just two weeks ago saying, "Sen. Feinstein has been a good senator," as well as Field Poll data that showed him winning the Republican primary but losing 55% to 30% in November's general election.
Campbell, 47, likely has more name recognition than the other Republicans, with the exception perhaps of Unz, who sponsored the successful initiative to end bilingual education in California. Campbell was a close second for the GOP Senate nomination in 1992, for Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat, and also served in the state Senate for two years.
Should Campbell win the primary, he would take on a wealthy incumbent with a strong fund-raising history. During the first six months of 1999, Feinstein had already raised $2.8 million.
By contrast, Campbell cut his potential funds Friday by vowing to refuse any political action committee money, a step he has taken in three other campaigns. Campbell said he discovered that declining the funds sat well with the people he met at his many town hall meetings, which he now supplements with a Web site town hall at www.campbell.org.
Declining to estimate how much money it would take to run a campaign against Feinstein, Campbell said simply: "Our financial situation is good and getting better."