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Archive for Sunday, August 10, 2003

California field needs a Latino hunk

August 10, 2003

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As California's bizarre recall election unfolds, it's occurred to me that the Golden State hasn't had a Latino governor in 157 years. And it won't anytime soon unless Hollywood starts producing Latino action stars.

I mean, Cruz Bustamante vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger? Lieutenant governor vs. Terminator? We know who'd win that fight, and he's bilingual.

"Hasta la vista, baby!"

Couldn't they recruit Latino screen hunk Jimmy Smits? How about Martin Sheen? He's a Latino who plays an American president on TV. That's more political experience than Schwarzenegger has.

I used to believe in the theory that the smallest places had the craziest politics. The Balkans, with their ethnic warfare. Schizophrenic Puerto Rico, should it be a commonwealth, the 51st state or an independent nation? Lilliput, where they argue over which side of the egg should be broken, the pointy or round end.

But California has just claimed the looney-tune politics crown for big states. Sorry, Texas, but a bunch of Democratic legislators holing themselves up in New Mexico to avoid a redistricting vote just doesn't match up to Circus Recall.

I don't know what else to call a free-for-all election whose leading candidates may include a cyborg, a pornography king, an anti-SUV columnist, two gubernatorial losers and the least-popular politician since Richard Nixon.

(In order of appearance after Ah-nole, they are Penthouse magazine publisher Larry Flynt, Arianna Huffington, businessmen Bill Simon and Richard Riordan, and Gov. Gray Davis).

Personally, mainstream political candidates like them don't appeal to me. I prefer the genuine political outsiders, the hundreds of little people who took out papers for this election.

They include Georgy Russell, a 26-year-old Democrat from the Bay Area who says she'll campaign for "clean elections, clean energy, and a cleaned-up criminal justice system." But what really caught my attention was that she's selling "Georgy for Governor" thong underwear and boxers.

I can't wait to see her billboard.

There's a cigarette retailer from Napa Valley. His campaign slogan might be, "Read my malignant lips, no new cigarette taxes!"

There's a bounty hunter from Sacramento (I'll bring in that state budget on time, dead or alive).

I was so worried no celebrity or fringe Latinos were running for governor, I decided to run myself.

"How do you want your name on the ballot?" the clerk in the registrar of voters office asked me. "You want to include your middle initial?"

She knew that in California, my name is as common as John Smith in New England. I told her to skip the middle initial. Sounds too lawyer-like.

"OK," she warned, "could be a few of you on the ballot."

Meanwhile, a Jewish dentist named Kenneth Horowitz was standing nearby. He signed my petition.

"You tell it like it is," Horowitz said. "I think you'd make a wonderful governor."

This is too easy, I said to myself. I've already won the Jewish vote!

I headed straight for my neighborhood, San Jose's north side. If they didn't support me I'd end up like poor Al Gore. He'd be president today had he carried his home state, Tennessee. Nothing's lower than a rejected native son.

Three old guys were sitting at Rollo's Donut Shop. None signed my petition. One said he voted only in general elections. One said he wasn't a citizen. The third one said, "I can't vote. I'm a convicted felon."

Now I know why I got a good deal on my house.

I walked around the block, knocked on doors. No luck. This signature-collecting business was hard work. That's because it is a business.

The only reason we're having this election is that Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican and car-alarm tycoon from Southern California, hired professional signature-collectors to qualify the recall. All it cost him was $1.7 million. He was going to run himself but pulled out when the Terminator jumped in. Poor Issa, he thought he had bought the election fair and square.

I don't know any Latino politicians with that much dough or Latino actors with as much political appeal as Arnold. At this rate it'll be another century and a half before we elect a Latino governor. What Latinos need isn't voting power, it's good parts in Hollywood action flicks. Hasta la vista.




Joe Rodriguez is a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. His e-mail address is jrodriguezmercurynews.com.

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