The variety of experience that veteran government and political insider Jim Dantona has accrued over his 30-year career is remarkable. The presidential advisor, State Senate chief of staff, founder of a youth anti-drug organization, campaign consultant, special assistant to a state controller, perennial Democratic candidate and lobbyist is running for Ventura County Clerk/Recorder. Throw in that he played in spring training for the Chicago Cubs in 1969, and we have the makings of one of the more interesting people to run for such a mundane job ever in the county.
Depending on the point of view, one can say Dantona's spent a life in public service--or one can say he spent his life running hundreds of campaigns as a political operative, lobbying and perma-candidate. Experience is usually--but not always--a good thing.
In the 1980s, Dantona worked as chief of staff for State Senate Pro Tem David Roberti, whom he had met at a community event (and admired his "progressive" politics), for 10 years. The relationship was sometimes rocky, but undoubtedly Dantona learned a great deal about the inner workings of government.
In the mid-80's, he worked as a political consultant and by the end of the decade entertained thoughts of running himself. He was rumored to be candidate for County Supervisor in 1989, and in 1990 and 1992 he sought to become a Simi Valley city councilman after a stint as a neighborhood councilmember. However, when Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election, Dantona aborted his campaign to work for the president-elect's national fundraising committee.
In 1995, he ran unsuccessfully for State Assembly. Along the way, he founded his philanthropic organizations BAD (Ballplayers Against Drugs) and worked hard as a "legislative consultant" (lobbyist). In 2006, he was narrowly defeated in a race for Ventura County Supervisor. In that race, Tony Strickland briefly endorsed him before withdrawing his support and throwing it behind Peter Foy, who won the bitter contest. It featured Dantona's questionable financial practices as central campaign issues. The slight must have stuck with Dantona, who took on Strickland for State Senate in 2008 before bowing out, saying that as a "good Democrat" he didn't want to force Hannah Beth Jackson to spend money on a primary when it could be used to defeat Strickland.
Now that Foy's chief of staff, Mark Lunn, is running for Ventura County Clerk/Recorder, Dantona decided to throw his hat in the ring one more time. Whereas he saved Jackson money by dropping out in 2008, is Dantona running simply to cost Lunn money, sticking it to Foy and Strickland at the same time? I'm sure he'd like to win, too, and the political payback may just be icing.
During a lifetime spent on working on political deals, running campaigns, making allies and enemies alike, Dantona's become a polarizing figure in local politics who at best is a well-connected crusader in Democratic politics, and at worst is a jaded and calloused insider.
The office of Clerk/Recorder manages important county records and elections. The question facing voters vis-à-vis Dantona is this: does his type of experience fit the mission of the office?