Upsetting Upset for the GOP
Simon ran a more professional and tough-minded campaign, and--when it became opportune--he didn't flinch from slinging some mud balls at Riordan, with whom he has a long-term personal friendship. The problem with Simon is that he's virtually unknown and has no discernible political track record. Even his conservative credentials are unsure. He re-registered as an independent just as Ronald Reagan was coming into the White House.
"There might be eight months to go before November," said the GOP consultant. "But this race is going to be decided in the next ten days. The only prayer Simon has is to come out immediately and introduce himself to California voters and define himself in some appealing way. He better do that--otherwise, you can be sure Gray Davis will."
Indeed, Davis wasted no time in turning his guns on Simon, the same man he so directly helped to nominate by way of his anti-Riordan onslaught. Accepting his own party's virtually uncontested nomination for re-election tonight, Davis was already depicting Simon as a dangerous right-winger who had to be stopped from dragging California "back to the past."
"Bill Simon is a true-blue think-tank conservative. I am a practical problem-solver," Davis said. "I believe many of his ideas are out of step and out of touch with most Californians. We need to keep moving California forward. Not backward--and certainly not to the right.
Meanwhile, as the GOP victory party broke up tonight, California Republicans seemed divided and wary about the future. Republican rainmaker Brad Freeman--a Dubya intimate and big-time fundraiser for Riordan--politely but firmly argued with Martin Anderson, a Simon booster and a former adviser to the Reagan White House.
"I'm not sure we're going into November with the strongest of candidates," Freeman lamented.
"You're so wrong," retorted Anderson. "Simon is going to give us a strong party and he's the best man to challenge Gray Davis. You'll see. His positions perfectly match those of the Bush Administration, and that's the best way to win."
"I respect your opinion a lot," Freeman answered. "But I'm not sure. I'm just not sure." He thus verbalized the clouds of doubt that hung so darkly over tonight's Republican celebration.
PS: The really good news out of California tonight is that San Joaquin Valley Congressman Gary Condit--famous not so much for his close working alliance with Gray Davis but for his relationship with the disappeared Chandra Levy--lost his bid for renomination by a wide margin to one of his former aides. Goodbye Gary, and good riddance. From the Bay Area comes word that Oakland Mayor (and former governor and presidential candidate) Jerry Brown coasted to re-election to a second term, beating challenger Wilson Riles Jr. by a 2 to 1 margin.