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Joe Guzzardi: Internet, independent voters could change electoral game

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Posted: Saturday, March 22, 2014 12:00 am

Conventional political wisdom has it that few politicians can be successful without name recognition and lots of money. But Republican State Assemblyman and California gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly hopes to be among the few that will break the well established pattern

I’ve come to wonder just how accurate recognition and money are in a modern day campaign. After all, California voters recognize Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer’s names. But many get a queasy feeling in the pit of their stomach when they hear them mentioned. California’s three top elected officials are pro-Obamacare, pro-open borders, pro-same sex marriage, pro-state transgender laws that allow youths to play sports or use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities, but are also anti-guns, positions many Californians disagree with.

California’s leaders do have plenty of money though, both personal fortunes and deep campaign treasure chests. Feinstein’s net worth is $70 million; over her career, she’s raised more than $57 million; Boxer’s worth is a comparatively paltry $5 million with donations hitting nearly $14 million.

How Brown became rich is interesting. After exhaustive research by Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, he learned that after Pat Brown left the executive mansion, he became involved in a questionable but lucrative Indonesian oil brokering business that made him and eventually his family wealthy. Just how wealthy, Brown is unwilling to say. In 2010, Brown raised more that $7 million during his campaign.

Challenger Donnelly doesn’t have the funding that Brown does. But, in part because of Internet technology, his name and message are getting out to the public. No sooner does something happen on his campaign trail than the news reaches Google. Only hours after the state GOP convention adjourned, the Los Angeles Times reported that Donnelly’s candidacy had been met with a “resounding” endorsement.

Earlier, Donnelly had shared his personal story with the audience. One of 14 children who grew up in a four-bedroom house in Michigan, Donnelly drove to California and then, after paying his own way at the University of California Irvine and earning a B.A. degree, went into the plastics manufacturing business. But, Donnelly added, the government regulated him out of business. As a result, Donnelly told the enthusiastic crowd: “I want my state back. I want my freedom back.”

Donnelly is relying on Independents to help him carry the day. Noting that independents are California’s fastest growing demographic, Donnelly says they have power to wield and should start flexing their muscles. Independents make up 21 percent of all registered voters.

Assuming Donnelly wins the June 4 primary, his timing for an upset over Brown is excellent. Recent Rasmussen polling found that nationwide, 62 percent of Americans think the nation — including California — is headed in the wrong direction. Public trust in government, 19 percent, is at the lowest level in nearly six decades.

With that kind of widespread voter dissatisfaction, suddenly the odds against long shot candidates like Donnelly get markedly shorter.

Joe Guzzardi is a registered Independent who ran for California governor in 2003 on the Democratic ticket. Contact him at

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