In the aftermath of the LA Mayor's election where former Federal prosecutor and radio broadcaster Kevin James presented a very respectable third place showing, the talk of what next has already begun.
The California GOP party is in shambles. Just last weekend the state party elected Republican stalwart and former legislator Jim Brulte as it's chairman. The party has fewer members than needed to block Democratic supermarjority votes in the Legislature, no statewide elected officials and it's highest ranking elected officials is Board of Equalization member Michelle Steele and, perhaps, LA City Council member Dennis Zine (is he still a Republican?)
At present, the only announced candidate for Governor is Hesperia Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (who?). There is talk of former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado running as well as talk radio fans pushing Michael Reagan, the son of the former Governor and President, to run.
This morning on his talkradio program on AM 870 The Answer, Ben Shapiro tossed out the idea of James seeking the Republican nomination for California Governor.
That's not a bad idea for a Republican party struggling to maintain relevance. Shapiro noted the dearth of prominent candidates for the party to challenge Governor Jerry Brown and Kevin's pragmatic, moderate version of Republicanism might just be the ticket. It may not hurt, too, that James is openly gay and for marriage equity which removes at least one attack point for the Democrat.
Now, Kevin's sexuality, may very well be a liability for him in a GOP primary where a significant chunk of Evangelical Christians still play. Yet, many of us as Evangelical Christians might need to remember we're picking a Governor not a pastor So sexuality may not be a factor here.
Hard core Republicans like my buddy Phil Jennerjahn, who had a significant issue with James' homosexuality, might find yet another moderate Republican candidate an anathema. Remember Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney? That's a good point and much can be said that perhaps the Republicans need to nominate a firebrand conservative in order to motivate the base and draw non-voting conservatives to the polls. However, James is no Whitman, Fiorina or Romney. Full of charm and articulate, James is a policy wonk on steroids combined with a Southern "aw-shucks" charm reminiscent of another politician who struggled initially with getting elected - but later landed the White House - Bill Clinton.
In addition to all this, there are a few hurdles for James to overcome. While he quickly went from being considered a gadfly by the mainstream press to a serious candidate, many have privately questioned the James campaign braintrust, in particular it's "get out the vote" capability. Though registered Republicans are a minority in Los Angeles, in a race against three well-known Democrats splitting the vote, James could have sailed into the runoff if Republicans and conservatives showed up in sufficient numbers. They did not. In a general election with equally daunting demographics, James will have to have an incredibly fired up base and peel off conservative Democrats to ensure victory. Murmurs around town that the local GOP leadership did little more than provide lip service to James and did not put their apparatus into place to turn out the vote will need to be addressed. While some speculate that perhaps there was a "pink-Bradley" effect at play with regard to GOP uneasiness about James' homosexuality, I believe it's larger than that, that a current moribund GOP has perhaps learned to live with being a minority party and is comfortable with things as they are. Plus, even though James ran a respectable campaign for Mayor, the fact remains he lost. That will be a question as to why he deserves a shot at a higher office.
If James can assembly a technically proficient campaign team and fire up his base, he has an excellent shot. If anything, watching him debate Jerry Brown will be a treat. To be sure, Brown, even at 74, is a far more adroit debater than Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry could ever hope to be. James will have to work hard to equal his performance in the Mayor debates with the more spry Brown. Still, it will be a lot of fun if this race develops. Stay tuned.