Dan Schnur, an independent candidate for California’s secretary of state position, served as a political consultant to John McCain, back when the Arizona senator was still a maverick running against George W. Bush. We have had tremendous disagreements on some policy issues, but we have similar views when it comes to integrity in government, the honesty of elections, the enhancement of voting rights and the education of voters.
Nothing in our lifetime was more upsetting than the theft of the 2000 election. Despite the denial of some in the body politic that “W” won the election, the results in Florida did not reflect the will of the voters. There is no doubt that Bush lost in the popular vote. It’s undeniable that “butterfly” ballots confused some in Florida who wanted to vote for Al Gore and ended up voting for Pat Buchanan. It can be debated whether a full accounting of the votes would have made a difference.
But the election’s outcome was appalling, as votes were not honored. Fair elections are essential in our republic and it is the duty of a secretary of state to ensure their fairness. The position also oversees corporate and campaign finance records.
Schnur is now listed as “decline-to-state,” having long lost his credentials as a Republican for being far too moderate. In fact, he might have been drummed out of his former party if he hadn’t walked away. That said, he is an honest person who believes in ethical politics regardless of party. He previously headed up the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).
He has assembled a bipartisan team of political advisors from both sides of the aisle, including Karen Skelton, who helped the Clinton Administration, and Darry Sragow, a highly respected Democratic consultant. Locally, Jim Cunneen is a supporter.
Schnur’s stated first goal is to ban fundraising while the state legislature is in session. It has long been a custom in Sacramento for legislators to throw lavish events in the middle of session. This forces lobbyists, whose bills depend on their good relationships with lawmakers, to pony up support for their friends. The timing of such events is unseemly and legislative results have been affected.
Second, and even more important, he wants to engage new voters. Our state’s public education system has failed to encourage young citizens to participate in their democracy. The lowest voting participation comes from the young and disadvantaged. As educators have become more rigid in core curriculum—teaching to the test—civics, government and politics have been deemphasized. Schnur wants new voters to be educated about the process and participate in government.
And finally, Schnur views the secretary of state position as a nonpartisan job. People have more confidence in outcomes if a neutral party administers the process. Our secretary of state must be able to overcome any political persuasion and administer the process in a fair manner. Schnur is correct that integrity has no party. The only other qualified candidate is state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).
While California is not Florida, we have seen what happened there, when the voting process was corrupted by a purely partisan state administration—the governor just so happened to be the brother of the declared winner and the secretary of state chaired the Florida Republican Party.
We must take steps to ensure something like that never happens again—especially in California.
Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley.