Lieutenant Governor's Race: Candidates Vow Change
This year, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor say they plan to make their mark in the position.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
John McDougall, Goodwin Knight, Frederick Houser, Michael Curb – who are these people? They were all Lieutenant Governors of California.
The Lieutenant Governor’s office could be described as the most superfluous in state government.
Tim Hodson with the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State says it’s hard to remember Lieutenant Governors, because their duties are relatively unimportant.
The Lieutenant Governor whiles away his time sitting on a number of state agencies. He’s head of the State Senate, but can write no legislation.
Hodson says his most important duty is asking a lot of questions about the governor:
Its constitutional duties are limited to inquiring about the governor’s health, and his travel plans, because the constitution does say the lieutenant governor becomes the governor if the governor dies, resigns or is out of state.
But the two major party candidates in this year’s race both have big ambitions. For Democratic Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, the Lieutenant Governor’s office is a place to make policy.
He plans to concentrate on improving education and access to health care, as well as protecting the environment:
Lieutenant Governor of the biggest state in this nation, the fifth largest economy in the world, has a position of great importance – to create and drive public policy, to work with the legislature, to work with the governor, and to create solutions to the problems that confront us.
For Republican State Senator McClintock, the office is what he calls “the 2nd bulliest pulpit” in the state:
It is at the crossroads of public policy making, with one foot in the legislative branch and one foot in the executive branch. The Lieutenant Governor’s office can be a powerful engine for policy reform.
McClintock’s principals include less regulation of the people by government and fewer taxes and fees on Californians. And McClintock says he’ll be an independent Lieutenant Governor, even if the governor is from his own party:
It’s principal role in my judgment is to amplify the administration’s policy when there’s agreement, and to offer alternatives when there’s not.
Garamendi also sees himself taking a very active role:
The job is one that is really defined by the individual who holds the job. What does the lieutenant governor want to do? You want to get up in the morning, look around, read the newspaper, go back to sleep, you could do that, but I’ve never been one to do that.
But public policy expert Tim Hodson says governors have a history of reigning in the lieutenant governor.
In the 1950’s,Goodwin Knight was the lieutenant governor, Earl Warren didn’t like Knight, and so whenever Earl Warren went out of state, he would take all pending bills and lock them up so Goodwin Knight could not sign legislation.
More recently, current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamente may be remembered mostly for being shunned by fellow party member, Governor Gray Davis. Davis once stripped Bustamante of his Capitol parking privileges. Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has virtually ignored him.
But Tim Hodson says both Garamendi and McClintock have strong personalities that could take the job to a new level:
Politicians by nature are usually very optimistic people and so any candidate for lieutenant governor will say I don’t care about historical trivia, I know what I can do with this position.
For both McClintock and Garamendi, the Lieutenant Governor’s position is a stepping-stone to the top job. McClintock says he’ll run for Governor in 2010. Garamendi is reportedly likely to do so as well.