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Patrick Mallon - Columnist

Patrick Mallon is a freelance journalist and author of California Dictatorship: How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis [read an excerpt]. His website is at and he can be contacted at [go to Mallon index]

California Dictatorship:
How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis

by Patrick Mallon

The inside story of the people´s revolt against an unresponsive and unpopular chief executive.
[Order it at Amazon.] Read an excerpt

What Happened to Kevin Shelley?
A falling liberal star...
[Patrick Mallon]

According to the LA Times ("Allegations Lead to Rising Star's Fall" - Feb. 5):

"Though his wide grin belied a furious temper, Kevin Shelley - son of congressman and protégé of a political legend - had been the darling of San Francisco Democrats until his future swerved out of control.

"In a year, accolades that Shelley earned for smoothly steering the first election to recall a California governor were overtaken by accusations that he broke laws, berated employees and ran a sloppy office as secretary of state."

In a nutshell, Shelley's office has been besieged by charges that:

  • a He received a $125,000 campaign contribution from a backer who benefited from a special state grant that Shelley had coordinated for a community building that was never constructed.
  • b He violated federal rules in the allocation of millions in federal election funds, specifically Help America Vote Act (HAVA)money earmarked for improving voter registration and the use of electronic voting equipment. State records show Shelley used a chunk of the money to promote his personal political objectives, allocating HAVA resources to partisan causes, and paying consultants who acted as Shelley operatives at Democratic political events.
  • c He failed to adequately prepare the state for a federally-mandated requirement that California have a statewide voter registration database in place by January 2006.

Conversely, as the state's head of administering elections, Shelley did an admirable job in introducing new electronic voting equipment into California's 58 counties.

Responding to pressure from voter advocacy groups, he successfully convinced the legislature to pass a bill requiring that voting machines include a printer to provide voters with a receipt and paper audit trail.

He was also sincere in demanding high standards for California election security.

The Real Problem: Anger Management

But Shelley's real problem was controlling his temper. He could explode at staffers in a moments notice, blew up over mistakes as trivial as the wrong size font in his briefing notes, and created a work environment so hostile that his office experienced some of the highest personnel turnover in the state.

This reporter covered the topic for back in August 2003 in "Anger Management and Subverting the Recall."

Back in 1998, when Shelley was the Democratic leader in the California Assembly, his temper "terrified employees in both his Capitol and district offices," reported Robert B. Gunnison of the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time Shelley openly admitted:

"I'm talking to people who are helping me with both my demeanor and my anger and to the extent that it gets misdirected. I've always been a hothead and had a temper, and I'm trying better to control that."

After a number of informal complaints about Shelley's behavior, the Assembly rules committee had to resort to hiring a private $160-an-hour lawyer to evaluate the assemblyman's performance.

His father was a longtime labor leader and mayor of San Francisco. He served six years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He was elected to chair the Democratic Caucus soon after he arrived in the legislature, and was then elected by his Democratic colleagues to be Assembly Majority Leader. In many ways, Shelley felt entitled to his advancement, because he knew no life other than politics.

He also has a short fuse. Various news reports describe him as "bullying," "mercurial," "abusive," "belittling" and "a tyrant."

When he fired a female worker during his stint as an assemblyman, he pursued the woman down the hallway and, according to the Chronicle:

"...stood in front of her as she tried three times to get on the elevator. The incident was recorded by a California Highway Patrol security camera, and the tape was reviewed by the Chronicle.

"'I'm intense. It is the very thing that achieves great success for me, but I'm so myopically focused on it that the downside of it is it creates an unpleasant environment,' said Shelley."

Fast forward from 1998 to 2005, Shelley apparently still couldn't get his anger issues under control.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle ("When Shelley needed friends the most, he found himself alone," February 5, 2005):

"A former San Francisco supervisor, a former assemblyman and one of only 10 statewide elected officials, Shelley had left a wake of bitter former staffers, legislators who found little reason to stick up for him and plenty of people who weren't bashful about bad-mouthing a mortally wounded politician.

"'He was volatile, he was manipulative and he was a nightmare,' said Fred Hamdun, a former deputy director in the secretary of state's office who described working for the mercurial Shelley as 'morbid.'"

And yet, some Democrats continued to offer a life raft for Shelley, especially Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, chairwoman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee responsible for conducting the Shelley investigation. Parra has granted several "courtesy" time extensions to the formal date for testimony, a date that may now never happen.

Now, Gov. Schwarzenegger will appoint a new secretary of state to the office Kevin Shelley will vacate on March 1.

In the 2002 fall elections, Democrats won all eight constitutional offices, a level of dominance some may have taken as a signal that no opposition existed to their reign. Hunkering Democrats now must face the reality that they're lost two of those offices, and they have no popular statewide standard-bearer to carry the torch, nor the policies that create any enthusiasm with registered voters. In fact, the state legislature has never been more unpopular, and they are stuck with two uncompromising stances on illegal immigrant driver's licenses and gay marriage.

So yet another promising Democrat from California watches his career fizzle out, largely because he failed to adhere to one of the most important lessons in modern politics, treat everyone else the same way you expect to be treated, because you never know who your friends are when you're on the way out. CRO

Note: Patrick will be on the air with Linda Chavez on Monday morning, Feb. 7, at 8:35 a.m. EST (Liberty Broadcasting (WMET, AM 1160, Washington, DC)

Patrick Mallon is a political journalist and author of California Dictatorship: How Liberal Extremism Destroyed Gray Davis. [read an excerpt]. Patrick is a regular guest on talk radio programs throughout the state and nationally. His website is at and can be contacted at

copyright 2005 Patrick Mallon



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