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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Being There: Part II

Being There was a movie starring Peter Sellers:
"Adapted by Jerzy Kozinsky from his own novel, the movie's about a simple-minded, middle-aged gardener who, after a lifetime of seclusion and safety in a Washington, D.C. townhouse, gets his first exposure to reality beyond the walls of his sheltered existence. His only reference to the world is through his childlike addiction to television, and when a chance encounter brings him into the inner fold of a dying billionaire (Melvyn Douglas), he suddenly finds himself the toast of Washington's political elite. His simple phrases about gardening are misinterpreted as anything from economic predictions to sage political advice..."
I'm watching a version of "Being There" play out right before my very eyes. I have a friend, Francine Busby, who is running for Congress as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district. She also ran during the 2004 elections and got less than 40% of the vote. Indeed, for the last election, it was so certain that the incumbent, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, would win the election, that pretty much anybody could get the democratic nomination, so it was Francine's for the asking. Francine has limited political experience (her only experience is that she sits on a school board), but it didn't matter since she (or any other Democrat) was going to lose anyway.

Duke Cunningham is now in jail for soliciting and accepting $2.4 million in bribes from Defense Contractors. There is a special election Tuesday to fill his empty seat in the house of representatives. Since Francine was the Democratic candidate in 2004, the Democratic party has decided to stick with her. Indeed, they've sent the best campaign managers and strategists, she's been able to raise more than $1 million for this election, and volunteers from all over the country are working around the clock for her campaign. She's running against 16 Republican candidates. The top vote getter from each party will progress to a second election in June. However, if someone gets more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday, they will immediately be installed as the representative for California's 50th district, and the June election will be cancelled.

The Republican party assumed that there was no way Francine would have a chance at 50%. As a result, until last week, they were happy to let the 16 Republican candidates "Duke" it out (so to speak), and have put no money or organizational support into this election. And it's too late now.

So last week, a poll came out showing Francine getting over 50% of the vote. The Republican party freaked and starting putting out attack ads. But the ads, put out by the national organization which doesn't understand our local politics, have generally helped Francine. For example, one ad claimed that Francine had taken money from "Defense Contractors" just like Duke Cunningham. They even listed some names of those people who worked for "Defense Contractors" that had donated to Francine's campaign.

One of those people is Irwin Jacobs. Irwin Jacobs is a highly respected and well liked person in San Diego. The companies that he's founded, including Qualcomm, have provided tens of thousands of excellent high-tech jobs here in San Diego. He has donated tens of millions of dollars to many charitable causes such as the San Diego Symphony. You couldn't get a better endorsement that having Irwin Jacobs support you. So one of the stupidest things the Republican could have done is to point out that Irwin Jacobs supports Francine. And that's exactly what they did. Most of their other attack ads weren't thought out all that well either.

If Francine wins on Tuesday, her luck will have been phenomenal every step of the way, from Duke being thrown in jail to incredibly incompetent attack ads by the Republicans. It's remarkably like the gardiner's luck in "Being There."


Howard said...

looks like a second election in June - Chauncy will have to wait...
Republicans may be vulnerable, but they're not sunk yet

Bret said...

Given all the breaks Francine got, it was a very poor showing at 44% of the vote.

If this race is any indication, the Republicans are in quite good shape.