Giddy, Chris Thompson walked into his editor’s office one day in 2003 after realizing all it took to run in California’s gubernatorial recall election was 65 signatures and $3,500 in filing fees. The threshold was so low, it would be easy to poke fun at the process by running a candidate.
This stunt appealed to East Bay Express Editor Stephen Buel. They talked it over. Then a name was blurted out.
“We outta run Gary Coleman,” Buel recalled. “I was thinking about Arnold. Who is the opposite of Arnold?”
The 2003 campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis had already turned into a political circus, with a carousel of B-list celebrities, adult entertainers, and third-party gadflies throwing their names into the ring. By the filing deadline, the ballot included 135 candidates: Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt was running, under the slogan “Vote for a Smut-Peddler Who Cares;” there was a Libertarian cigarette retailer and a Green Party custom denture manufacturer; a retired meat packer and middleweight sumo wrestler both ran as independents. Comedian Leo Gallagher, Arianna Huffington and adult film actress Mary Carey were also in the race.
As California braces for a similar spectacle with the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom — which last week secured enough signatures to go before California voters, and has already attracted a similarly motley slate of potential candidates — former East Bay Express staffers recently reflected back on the part they played 18 years ago, when the alt-weekly ran Coleman as a replacement candidate.
At the time Buel and Thompson floated Coleman, it was widely known Arnold Schwarzenegger would run, although he had not officially announced it. That the bodybuilding movie star from Austria, a Republican, was the favorite to replace Davis seemed absurd to the staff of the East Bay Express, said former editors who worked in the newsroom at the time. The alt-weekly, in those days, had an editorial staff of 18 and a budget to entertain wild ideas.
Then-managing editor Michael Mechanic, now a senior editor at Mother Jones, remembered an editorial meeting where the discussion turned to the upcoming recall. Buel had floated Coleman’s name, based on his wide appeal and because he was physically and professionally the opposite of Schwarzenegger.
In this case, Arnold from the TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” versus Arnold the action movie star.
“We were saying this seems like a ridiculous process, how can we underscore the absurdity of this whole thing?” Mechanic said recently. “The alt-weeklies, it was a very fun, snarky atmosphere. So Steve pursued this. I don’t know how he got Gary Coleman.”
Buel got spending approval, a bare-bones allowance but nothing the Bay Area’s alt-weekly owners today would approve. He phoned Coleman’s agent, Hal Stalmaster. He laid out the terms: If the “Diff’rent Strokes” child actor agreed, the Express would collect the necessary signatures, pay the filing fees and run the campaign. They wouldn’t raise any money or accept campaign contributions.
“A few days later,” Mechanic recalled, Buel “excitedly calls me to his office and said, ‘you gotta hear this.’” It was …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News
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