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Shawn Steel

Shawn Steel is the immediate past president of the California Republican Party, activist, commentator, conservative stalwart and recall proponent. Mr. Steel is an attorney practicing in Palos Verdes, California.

Recall Choice Really Between Tom, Bill, Arnold
[Shawn Steel] 8/15/03

The wild but wonderful recall phenomenon has acquired its near-final form. The Oct. 7 ballot will feature scores, if not hundreds, of Californians vying for the highest office in the state.

OK, that's not really true.

Only a handful of those candidates will impact the vote, and only a few of that handful actually stand a chance of winning. The choice really comes down to three candidates: Tom McClintock, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Simon.

For some, the choice will be a no-brainer; for many others, regardless of their ideological bent, that decision is more complicated. I understand this feeling completely, and have devised a checklist of sorts I believe will guide the recall proponents to the strongest candidate.

The populists who created the recall would lose any chance of restructuring state government if Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante were to eke out a victory. Bustamante is supported by the same special interests as Davis, special interests that have terrorized our economy and obstructed reform movements.

Because Bustamante is on the ballot, the electability of one of the top three Republicans should be our foremost consideration. After all, the point of this recall is replacing Davis with a reform governor who will push goals of economic growth through lower taxes, less spending, business-friendly rules and real workers' compensation reform.

The winning candidate must have voter appeal that bleeds across party lines.

The winner this fall will need to adopt Ronald Reagan's skills in communication, voter empathy and visionary leadership.

An attractive persona fused as a brilliant communicator is another key factor. The recall's compressed time frame gives voters much less time to get to know the candidates. The nature of this election favors the candidate best able to quickly forge a genuine connection with voters.

The voters who created the recall must believe the candidate sincerely comprehends the massive outflow of fellow Californians fleeing our state for a better living environment. The candidate must understand what it will take to encourage the middle class to stay and help rebuild.

Even after Davis is recalled, the heavily liberal Democratic Legislature will remain. Therefore, voters must consider which of the top candidates commands the necessary charisma, craftiness, clarity of purpose and force of will to push the Legislature in a new direction.

Should the recall succeed, the new governor's most urgent task is restoration of the state's economy. If we elect a governor lacking the political and communication skills to leverage sufficient Democratic votes -- or absent that, the willingness to obtain reforms directly from the people via initiative -- California's economic train wreck will continue, albeit with a new politician driving the train.

Visionary leadership is crucial for which candidate is most able -- and willing -- to assemble a cabinet of economic-growth specialists. Davis proved that simple-minded "experience" can be the most harmful formula for running the state. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have demonstrated the value of a visionary leadership surrounded by able, supply-side economists who are committed to economic expansion. Campaign resources are key.

Obviously, no one is going to cast a vote based on the size of a candidate's campaign treasury. At the same time, the replacement with the best chance of winning the election is the one with a war chest sufficient for communicating with voters as often as needed during the next two months. The ideal candidate who can raise the millions necessary -- or who is willing to spend millions from his own personal fortune -- stands the best chance of winning.

Finally, we need a governor willing to invest significant effort and resources into rebuilding his party and sweeping Sacramento clean by electing pro-business legislators.

The recall movement itself has invigorated a demoralized citizenry. Just months ago, most people felt powerless. Recent polls show that 82 percent of Californians believe the state is headed in the wrong direction. A recall victory must mark the beginning of a political renaissance, or else our efforts will be mostly in vain.

The winner will be the man who understands the roots of the rebellion and can lead the charge against those who brought our state to its economic knees.

[This editorial originally appeared at the Los Angeles Daily News 8/13/03]

copyright 2003 Shawn Steel

Shawn Steel is a co-founder of the Davis recall campaign and immediate
past chairman of the California Republican Party. Write to him by e-mail



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