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Live Interview With Tom Campbell

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I will be interviewing Tom Campbell tonight starting at 6:15PM.

The interview is done. Click on continue reading to see Tom Campbell's answers to my questions. Leave a comment with your opinion on the issues I brought up, his answers, of the campaign for governor. We had originally scheduled this for another date, but something came up in Tom Campbell's schedule and he was able to do it tonight. I have a bunch of entries to catch up with but interviewing someone I admire took precedent.

I am not sure who I will support for governor in 2010. I would be inclined to support a Democrat but if none of them offer up a platform that addresses our current problems and is innovative in their solutions I might support Tom Campbell. His depth of understanding of the issues impresses me. But with so much time between now and the next election we have the luxury of sitting back and analyzing the arguments the candidates put forth.

Click here for his biography on Wikipedia.

Click here for his official website.

Tom and I will be posting on the comments section of this post. To follow along click on continue reading.

Tom, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to answer questions. I have admired your distinguished career and eclectic mix of policy views for years. Your background in law, economics, and as a legislator is a background I would welcome in a governor.

Your recent editorial in Reason Magazine triggered my request for this interview. Which brings me to my first questions:

What magazines, blogs, or radio shows do you follow?

What were some of the most recent books that you have read related to economics, politics, or history?

What authors or books created such an impression on you that you want to recommend them to younger people just starting to form their political ideology?


What magazines, blogs, or radio shows do you follow?

What were some of the most recent books that you have read related to economics, politics, or history?

What authors or books created such an impression on you that you want to recommend them to younger people just starting to form their political ideology?

Great to blog with you, Brian. I read the Economist and Natural History fairly regularly. I like the Libertarian blog sites, and also the GOP ones, lp.org, gop.com, and smashed frog. The most recent book I just finished is E=MC2, a fascinating account of the development of the world's most famous formula, explained in terms I can understand. I also just finished McCulloch's John Adams. Probably the most impressive book to me, in my life, was John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. As an economist, it taught me the limits of economics, and the triumph of humanity.


You won an award while you were in the State Senate for being the most ethical senator. What current elected officials in California would you nominate for an ethics award?

I think very highly of Roger Niello, the senior Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee. He showed courage and leadership in his work on the budget. I was privileged to work with Jack O'Connell, both when I was in the Senate, and when I was Finance Director of the State. He was always fair, compassionate, and willing to hear another side to an argument. Jack's a Democrat, and he's also running for Governor. I think very highly of former Congressman Jim Leach, of Iowa. He was defeated two years ago, largely, I think, because he had an R after his name. He risked his Committee Chairmanship to vote his conscience on several occasions when we were both in the House. And I think John McCain is a real American hero. He emerged from the possible taint of the Keating matter to become a real champion for campaign finance reform, and the elimination of pork "ear marks," even at the cost of not getting projects for Arizona.

I realize John McCain and Jim Leach are not "elected officials in California," but I thought they deserved honorable mention nonetheless.


Before I asked this question I had to check to see if there was a budget deal. I read on your website that you were open to compromise, including higher taxes to get a budget passed.

If you were governor would you sign the compromise budget that the legislature has been debating?

Would you rather insert higher gas prices instead of income taxes in the budget?

I think a budget deal is very close. I went on record last December that a budget deal was necessary because public works had been frozen in California. We need the work on our freeways, port facilities, water storage and delivery, and we need the jobs. But all that has ground to a halt while we have no budget. So, I proposed a 50-50 split between real cuts in spending (not just diminutions in the rate of growth!) and gasoline tax increases. The price of gas was above $4 a gallon last summer, so we know that, much as I'd rather no tax increase at all, that particular tax won't wreck the California economy. In the long term, however, it's a spending problem. If we took Gov. Gray Davis' first budget, back in 1999, and increased it for inflation and population growth, we'd be spending less than our revenue today--that is, we'd have a balanced budget. So, that means we need a real constraint on spending. My long-term proposal would be to lag spending by one year. That is, take in tax money this year, let it earn interest for a year, and decide how to spend it next year. That way, Democrats and Republicans would have a good-faith debate over spending priorities, and even over whether taxes should be lowered or increased, but we'd know how much money we had to spend this year. Another benefit would be that when revenues dropped, we'd be able to fix the problem a year ahead of time. I was the Chairman of Proposition 76. I authored the version that went to the legislature in 2005. Had it been approved, we would have had automatic, across-the-board expenditure cuts when revenues started to fall, over a year ago. We'd be much better off today. Regrettably, the folks who benefit from the present system defeated Prop. 76. I wished it had passed.


You have been described as a social moderate because you support abortion rights and because you support marriage equality. But in your recent editorial in reason you laid out a conservative argument for marriage equality. Do you remember what factors influenced you to support marriage equality?

If you were Governor and a repeal of Proposition 8 was on the ballot would you campaign in favor of repealing Proposition 8?


Some local communities have put into place social host ordinances which enable law enforcement to go after property owners if there is underage drinking in their homes. Some have argued that this just causes more teens to drink outside the home which brings with it unintended consequences.

Do you think overall you would support social host ordinances?


As you know, but in the interest of full disclosure, I am a public school teacher.

What school reforms would you like to see in place that you think teachers, legislators, and parents might support?


Both the Barack Obama and Ron Paul campaigns used new social networking technologies to being new people into the process. Have you changed how you have campaigned because of anything you learned from them in the past cycle?

Do you run your own Facebook page or is it a campaign volunteer?

I believe in liberty. I believe that government should intrude on individuals' privacy only when really necessary. So, whether two people of the same sex or of a different sex want to get married, the State of California should treat those cases the same. The conservative argument is a limited goverment argument: do we really need to patrol whether two people who love each other and want to spend their lives together are gay or straight? Let people be. America is freedom, not intrusion by government.
In answer to your second question, yes, I would favor the people repealing Proposition 8 if given the chance to do so.

Regarding Social Host Ordinances:
I certainly support laws to curb underage drinking. I respect the Constitutional provisions about getting a warrant; but assuming there is probable cause for the police to come into a party where underage drinking is going on, I'd favor them doing so. They're saving lives. And the parents would really be given an incentive to monitor their children's behavior.

Re: School Reform
Adequate funding for schools, spending the money in the classroom, not on administrators and filling out compliance reports, lowering class sizes, giving control to principals and the parents of their students: these are the fundamentals of effective school reform. And for the very lowest income families, whose children are in the worst performing schools, starting, say, at the lowest 2% of income or performance, let the parents have scholarships to send their children to private schools instead. If it works, we can consider expanding it. If it doesn't work, we will not have risked too much. For those who absolutely oppose this alternative, I'd say, what are you doing for the very lowest income students, attending the very worst performing schools?


Do you have in speaking engagements of campaign events in Ventura County in the near future? As a Simi Valley citizen I am going to plug the Reagan Library as a tourist destination. I know you worked for Reagan, but if you haven't been to the library recently come check it out again.

Re: Barack Obama and Ron Paul social networking
You're absolutely right I've embraced the new way of campaigning. My website at Campbell.org will incorporate blogging as a fundamental means of communication. And I do all the responses myself. Same for Facebook. I don't have volunteers doing those answers for me. When I was a Congressman, I had the first "electronic town hall meeting"--an early pre-cursor of blogging. Every night, I'd answer five questions from constituents, and post the questions and answers on the web. The developer of that technology was written up in Campaigns and Elections Magazine as creating the best political website in existence, at the time.

RE: Events in Ventura County
I'm speaking at the UC Berkeley alumni event in Los Angeles tomorrow night, February 18, at the Luxe Hotel, off the 405, starting at 6:30. It's a non-political event, focusing on the economy. That's not Ventura County, I know, but it's my next speaking engagement in the Southland. I appreciate the suggestion of the Reagan Library as a venue; and if I have the chance, I'll use it. You're right, it was a great privilege for me to serve in President Ronald Reagan's administration. I was the Director of the Bureau of Competition, at the Federal Trade Commission, from 1981 to 1983. He was the greatest President in my lifetime.


Thanks for your time to sit down and blog here. Anytime you have campaign news, no matter how small, send it in and I will post it for you.

Good Luck in your campaign and thanks again!

It was my pleasure, Brian. Thank you for asking me; and thank you for being a public school teacher in our state!

Great! Based on tonite, I'd vote for the guy. I especially liked his proposal of a spending lag. It's a solution rather than more of the same political BS from either party.

I sure liked hearing from him! I signed up on his webpage for updates. I hope he comes down to the county/Reagan Library.


Are you going to join him on Facebook or are you going to sign up for his emails?

I don't do FaceBook. Googling lasts forever and the FB high priests just changed the terms of their user agreement to assume a perpetual free license on everything everyone's ever posted on their FB pages.

I won't sign up for his emails but I will frequent his site and I'm impressed enough to pay more attention to what he has to say in the future.

I had the pleasure of co-hosting (with the Hispanic Congress of Republicans) an event for Tom Campbell back when he was running for Senator against Dianne Feinstein. It's too bad he was not running against Barbara Boxer. With Feinstein being popular with independents, it was a tough political battle.
Tom Campbell is a brilliant, disciplined and compassionate man who approaches problems with a desire to solve them. I cannot say enough good things about him as a potential governor. Getting through the Republican primary gauntlet will be his challenge.

Tom Campbell,

Is there anything you learned from running against Dianne Feinstein that you could utilize running against Meg Whitman? She seems like a pretty tough broad too.

Hey Leslie!


Is that an endorsement?

Sorry Brian - I'm not ignoring your question - I have not had time to do much blogging.

Tom Campbell would be the best governor, in my opinion, although I don't know as much about Poizner and Whitman. The latter two are supposedly moderates (social moderates, fiscal conservatives), but have been dancing a lot with some people I don't care for.

Funny story - I met Steve Poizner at a Republican convention a few years back. There was a particularly vicious bunch of social conservatives running around bad-mouthing moderates. I told Poizner that I "felt like I was surrounded by aliens, and I don't mean people from foreign countries." He just looked at me curiously. So, ever since, I have have wondered if he has no sense or humor, or didn't get it, or was afraid to agree.

Brian Dennert here

This blog is dedicated to Ventura County politics. Send in ideas for posts to briandennert@gmail.com
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  • Leslie Cornejo: Sorry Brian - I'm not ignoring your question - I read more
  • Brian: Leslie, Is that an endorsement? read more
  • nobody: Tom Campbell, Is there anything you learned from running against read more
  • Leslie Cornejo: I had the pleasure of co-hosting (with the Hispanic Congress read more
  • gs: I don't do FaceBook. Googling lasts forever and the FB read more
  • Brian: GS, Are you going to join him on Facebook or read more
  • Katie Teague: I sure liked hearing from him! I signed up on read more
  • gs: Great! Based on tonite, I'd vote for the guy. I read more
  • tom: It was my pleasure, Brian. Thank you for asking me; read more
  • Brian: Tom, Thanks for your time to sit down and blog read more