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John Campbell

John Campbell (R-Irvine) is an Assemblyman representing the 70th District in Orange County. Mr. Campbell is the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. He is the only CPA in the California State legislature and recently received a national award as Freshman Republican Legislator of the Year. He represents the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods and Lake Forest. He can be reached through his Assembly website and through the website for his California Senate campaign. [go to Campbell index]

Lots of Change, Quickly
What a difference a year makes...

[John Campbell] 12/31/03

Sometimes days or hours seem to just creep by. Other times, years appear to pass before you know it. I'm not sure whether 2003 went by slowly or quickly, but I am certain that a whole lot happened in the areas of politics and public policy.

To illustrate this point, do you realize that one year ago at this time, the U.S. military was still mopping up from a successful engagement in Afghanistan and pundits were speculating as to if and when we might commence military operations in Iraq? The national economy was in recession as the Fed was continuing to lower interest rates, not quite sure of when or if the recession might end. And, Gov. Davis had just been re-elected for a second term and was preparing to issue a new budget proposal to balance what he had just announced was a $30 billion state deficit. In my district, the county of Orange was short one supervisor and was still wrestling with the recently passed Measure W which appeared to stop El Toro airport, although the board never had an anti- airport majority.

So where are we now? The U.S. military invaded and removed the dictatorship in Iraq and now is working on winning the peace and transferring power to a democratic Iraqi government. The U.S. economy just finished the biggest one-quarter economic expansion and productivity increase in over 40 years as talk begins that the Fed may again start to raise interest rates to keep the economy from "overheating." The recall of Gray Davis was begun and finished with the election of Gov. Schwarzenegger, who will be proposing a solution to deal with the $27 billion deficit handed to him by the former governor. And the Orange County Board of Supervisors now has an anti-airport majority that appears to have buried that issue once and for all.

Wow. A lot that has turned 180 degrees in one year. And with those kinds of swings, you can imagine that some people and groups have been on the good side while others have been on the bad side of all that change.

Now, I am a person who appreciates the nuances of fine wines. In the wine world, some years will be good in one wine growing region of the world, and not so good in another. So, how did 2003 rate as a good year or bad year in some political circles? Here is my assessment of a select few in the world of politics:

Good Year

Arnold Schwarzenegger: So you introduce your latest movie. It does well at the box office. Then you run for governor of the largest state in the union and win overwhelmingly while the whole world pays attention. Every media outlet from C-SPAN to "Access Hollywood" covers your every move. Then you deliver on a couple of your promises to lower the car tax and repeal a bad driver's license bill right away. Can it get any better than this? But you still have to deal with that deficit leftover from your predecessor. That will make 2004 more difficult.

George Bush: Democrats had planned to run against you in 2004 the same way they ran against your father. They would grudgingly admit that you've done OK in foreign policy, but it's the economy, stupid. Well, your tax cut is spurring a strong economic recovery that is surprising almost everyone. You also get a prescription drug plan through Congress. The Democrats now find themselves running against you without an issue. And their leading candidate is Howard Dean, who has been given the nickname of "maple-flavored McGovern," reflecting his extremism. Things aren't perfect for George Bush, but they are going pretty darn well.

Democracy: Much of the misery placed upon the state by the one-party-ruling Democrats in Sacramento was done in the dark of night in hopes that the people would not notice. But they did notice. They felt it in their lives and in their pocketbooks. And they know who did it to them. We are all better off with a government whose actions are transparent to and seen by the public. The recall, for better or worse, was evidence of that. And it was evidence that democracy is still very much alive in California.

Average Year

Phil Angeledes: The state treasurer has made himself the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006 with the implosion of Cruz Bustamante in the recall. He is getting lots of ink as the main Democratic foil of Arnold. But, in his quest to be against everything the governor is for, he has reversed his own positions on some things and has been seen by many as being overtly transparent in his political grandstanding. So you are the front-running Democrat, but you will probably have to run against Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Unions and Trial Lawyers: The unions and trial lawyers had another great year through September. Despite a budget crisis, Gov, Davis gave public employee unions (his major contributors) substantial increases in salaries and benefits and refused to reduce their work force, preferring instead to raise taxes on the rest of us. And trial lawyers were given many more opportunities to do frivolous lawsuits. But Gov. Arnold is already putting together a tort reform package designed to reduce junk lawsuit opportunities and he campaigned against the "special interest" public employee unions. So, now they are on the defensive and may lose the gains they made last year. By the way, their loss will be a gain for the economy and for everyone in the private sector in this state.

Bad Year

Gray Davis: Being only the second governor in the history of any state to be recalled is not a legacy. It's hard to imagine having a worse year in politics. To his credit, from election night on, he handled his defeat and transition with dignity.

Indian Gambling Tribes: A few years ago, most voters saw the Indian tribes as impoverished peoples who had been wronged in the past and who were putting up casinos in the middle of nowhere merely to earn some money to provide running water to their tribal members. The public now overwhelmingly sees them as a very rich special interest that pumps millions into political campaigns in order to maintain their government-sanctioned monopoly that allows them to earn unconscionable profits while paying no taxes and not having to comply with any state regulations. They had a great deal going with the public but they got too greedy and they blew it. It is the public relations disaster of the decade.


Will 2004 contain the same level of political change as 2003? It's unlikely, although this will be an election year. But, at the very least, the political earthquakes of 2003 will make 2004 another very interesting year.


This piece first appeared in OC Metro



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