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Candidate Simon Loses the Center--and All Hope

September 08, 2002|KEVIN IVERS

It's time for the GOP to wake up to reality: Bill Simon is going to lose the gubernatorial election in November.

If his deepening campaign finance woes and the fraud conviction against his company, William E. Simon & Sons, were not proof enough of the coming disaster, then his highly public flip-flops over the Log Cabin Republicans questionnaire at the behest of a tiny faction of right-wing extremists were the sounds of the iceberg ripping open his last remaining airtight containers.

The ship will go to the bottom on Nov. 5.

It is a basic tenet of politics--so basic that every college political science freshman knows it--that elections are won by capturing the center.

Every statewide poll shows that California is a gay-friendly state, more so than almost any other, and the political center doesn't like anti-gay politicians.

Bill Simon doesn't get it, and neither does the party that nominated him.

The consequences will be serious, not only for the GOP but for the people of California, who desperately need sound leadership after four years of Gray Davis.

Just look at the Log Cabin affair.

At the center of the mess was none other than the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition, who is known for only one thing in political circles: his obsession with homosexuality.

The vast majority of California voters don't have a problem with gay people, and most would like to see gays treated equally in the law. Sheldon resides, politically, on a distant planet.

After it was revealed that Simon's campaign had completed a Log Cabin questionnaire that took positions on gay issues that any statewide contender would reasonably take, Sheldon was furious and demanded that Simon repudiate it.

Days later, Simon jumped, blaming his staff for filling out the questionnaire despite it bearing his signature, and reversing or muddying his positions on a range of issues all over again.

Why Simon would so publicly cater to Sheldon, as have many Republican candidates who have tanked at the polls before him, is another mystifying aspect of the California GOP's malady.

A simple review of Sheldon's political track record makes it clear that he's the kiss of death.

Dan Lungren, Bruce Herschensohn and Matt Fong were all candidates who let unpopular Democrats slip into office with Sheldon's "help." Add Simon's name to the list in about two months.

But gay rights is only part of the picture. The California Republican Party seems to have a serious addiction to failure.

The White House and the national party have made several attempts to intervene and rescue the patient, but every one has been messy and incomplete because the patient, so far, doesn't want to be rescued.

What's more, there is this notion that the far right represents the Republican "base" in California and that it must be catered to at the risk of losing a foundation of support needed to win a general election.

It is a fallacy.

Solid Republicans who repudiate the likes of Sheldon tend to soar in statewide polls; the state GOP just never lets them end up on the November ballot.

Those of us who still care should be preparing now for the day after the election, when it will be time for the party to face its problems head-on with bold solutions.

Topping the list: Stop catering to the far right and embrace the political mainstream once and for all. Nothing will terrify the Democrats more, and nothing short of this will allow a Republican to be the governor of California in the foreseeable future.

*

Kevin Ivers is the founder of a Republican Party public affairs company based in Washington, D.C. He is the former national director of public affairs of the Log Cabin Republicans.

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