In addition to being beach season it’s also election season. Don’t look now but November 4th is right around that proverbial corner. To anyone who reads this column regularly it’s obvious I’m a bit of a political junkie. (I’ve tried 12 step meetings but I’m apparently powerless.)
Speaking of elections, while perusing YouTube the other night I came across the documentary “The Making of the President, 1960,” based on Theodore H. White’s ground-breaking and best-selling book about one of our most memorable elections, that of JFK in 1960.
The documentary was produced by the late David Wolper, whose son happens to be my neighbor. I suppose, under the category of “Six degrees of separation,” this is 1 degree.
In the documentary Nixon, even then, looked so patently crooked. I was reminded of the joke about him, “Would you buy a used car from this man?” Frankly, I’d rather take the bus.
Who can forget Nixon’s looking directly into the TV camera and asserting, “I am not a crook.” It ranks right up there with O.J.’s, “100% absolutely not guilty.” Right then Judge Ito should have pounded his gavel, “Guilty! Next case.”
But back to politics. In our L.A. County’s 3rd Supervisorial District we have a fascinating race. It pits our former Assemblywoman and State Senator, Sheila Kuehl, against attorney/entrepreneur and our former Mayor, Bobby Shriver. Even though it’s local, Teddy White would have loved this classic battle.
As far as I know Santa Monica has never been home to a County Supervisor. But, since both Sheila and Bobby live here, whatever the November outcome we’ll be represented. And there’s another “degree of separation” regarding White’s book. With his father, Sargent Shriver, and his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Bobby Shriver’s uncle was JFK!
Supervisor races are rarely tightly contested as incumbents often serve until they resign. But, with term limits finally kicking in, after twenty years in office our 3rd District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was termed out. (“Termed out” sounds so ominous, doesn’t it?) All of this sets the stage for the heavyweight Shriver-Kuehl duel.
To say that these two candidates are high achievers is a severe understatement. Both were attorneys, Kuehl having gone to Harvard Law School and Shriver having gone to Yale.
A career politician, Sheila was the first openly gay member of the California State Assembly and pioneered LGBT rights. (Are bisexuals really discriminated against?)
Meanwhile Shriver has spent much of the last two decades raising funds for the Special Olympics and for medicine and care for AIDS-stricken Africans. His work has been universally credited with saving millions of lives.
While Kuehl’s 14 years of government experience is highly impressive some critics have noted that it was all in Sacramento. Shriver served at the local level, as did our previous Supervisor, Ed Edelman as did Yaroslavsky.
Going back to January when Shriver announced his candidacy, Sheila wasn’t exactly overly gracious. “Do we really need a Supervisor who’s going to run off to Hyannis Port?” Ouch!
To some it seemed like a cheap shot, especially since three times the trips were for funerals, Shriver’s mother’s, his Uncle Ted’s and his father’s.
Fast forward to the June primary where Kuehl won by 8% points, though to be fair the turnout was light. In the general election in November, where three times as many will likely vote, the race is predicted to be extremely close. In fact some polling has Shriver running 2% points ahead.
Last week Shriver received a huge boost. Former W. Hollywood Mayor, John Duran, who finished 3rd in the June primary with 16% of the vote, enthusiastically endorsed Bobby. He cited Shriver’s shared passion for smart solutions to create jobs and for breaking away from the status quo when it’s not working.
Current W. Hollywood Mayor, John D’Amico, also has endorsed Shriver who responded, “There’s not a conflict in wanting to see job investment and to also have strong progressive values.”
To her credit, Kuehl has lined up endorsements from much of the local Democratic Party machine. Sheila’s known for being a fighter while Shriver’s known for getting things done. At stake for both is a probable swing vote on the nonpartisan county board, which oversees a whopping $26-billion budget and 100,000 employees.
These two candidates are of such high quality and the race is a classic confrontation that were it taking place back east the “New Yorker” magazine would likely run a 5,000 word story. But the Daily Press only gives me 800 words, which, according to my trusty Microsoft word counter, I’ve just used up. Besides, I’m running late for my Politics Anonymous meeting.
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.