Candidate of the week

Shilling for democracy

Paul Mariano

Paul Mariano

Though all the press is going to much richer, louder and more dysfunctional candidates, Paul Mariano’s campaign for governor may be the most honest and conceptually interesting. Mariano is, in essence, shilling for Gray Davis, a man with whom he’s had no contact. More accurately, he’s shilling for the will of the people who voted Davis into office.

A trial attorney who graduated from California State University, Sacramento, and spent the last 25 years with the Contra Costa County public defender’s office, Mariano says he’s not looking to move back to Sacramento, even if elected. Instead, he says, he would “decline residence in the governor’s mansion, refuse any salary and allow the continuation of the rightfully elected government” by appointing Davis as chief of staff in charge of day-to-day governance. In a race marked by oblique motivations and weirdly shifting alliances, there’s something reassuring in Mariano’s campaign for the democratic process. At least we know where he stands.

SN&R: Yours is, in a sense, the most honest of all the candidacies. How did you come up with the idea?

Mariano: Well, without sounding too preachy, as you’re probably aware, I’m a public defender, and I spent my entire 27 professional years representing the due-process rights of individuals, my clients. And I thought that the due-process rights of the electorate, myself included, were being basically violated by this whole recall process.

So, I started to do some investigation about the recall process in California and found out that there are only 18 states in the nation that have it, found out that California’s threshold of 12 percent of the last electorate is the lowest anywhere, found out that California is, although not unique, still an unusual minority in that it does not allow the person subject to the recall to run.

So, basically, Gray Davis’ only chance is in the yes-or-no vote. Let’s say, for example—hopefully it will not—that the vote goes 60 percent yes and 40 percent no. That’s the end of Gray Davis. But what happens to that 40 percent that said, basically, in voting no on the recall, that we want to retain Gray Davis, either because we like him or because we’re opposed to this process? That 40 percent of the electorate is disenfranchised, for all intents and purposes, and we are forced to vote for the Terminator or a stripper or a porn king or a public defender.

SN&R: Now, Cruz Bustamante would say that his candidacy is the alternative for that disenfranchised 40 percent.

Mariano: I think that Cruz Bustamante is being terribly hypocritical. Leon Panetta had a good quote, when he read of the candidacies of Cruz Bustamante and [John] Garamendi. He said, “What they are doing is saying, ‘We’re against bank robbery, but if you give us some of the money, it’s OK.” In our press release, we said we’re against bank robbery, and if you give us some of the money, we’re going to give it back to its rightful owner. In this case, the rightful owner is the duly elected governor of California, Gray Davis.

I’m sad to say that I think that we’ve become in California the newest reality-television show. The process has become circus-like. It’s become insane. And I think what’s happened is that people have lost respect for and sight of these democratic principles that they take for granted that are so important. The idea of full, fair, free elections we have taken for granted for so long, that now we’re prepared to throw out the baby with the bathwater. A lot of people don’t like Gray Davis, myself included, to be quite frank with you. I mean, I voted for him last time, and I would never vote for him again.

SN&R: But you’d hire him?

Mariano: I would hire him because I would have him finish that job, which is not only a right but also a responsibility. I truly believe that one of these days, [Davis and I] will speak before October 7, that he will accept and acknowledge the need to finish the job that he signed on for, which is to run the state of California.

SN&R: What do you make of Darrell Issa dropping out?

Mariano: I think Issa dropped out because he was pressured to do so. I think it will be interesting to see what happens to the other top-tier Republican candidates in the near future. I believe that the Ueberroths and McClintocks will be pressured to withdraw from the election, so Republicans can unite behind one candidate.

SN&R: So, you’re running for office now, even if only as a stand-in. Had you ever thought of running for any office in the past?

Mariano: No, never. I’ve never lost an election before, and I don’t intend to start now.