August 31, 2009
— Gabriel Malor A week ago I wrote about the likely California primary contest between Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. They're going after Senator Barbara Boxer, whose numbers are looking pretty weak right now.
At the time, I didn't know much about DeVore (or Fiorina, for that matter). To remedy that, the Assemblyman was kind enough to go on the record and answer my questions.
The interview is lengthy, so I've cut it into three parts. The first part, in which we talk about DeVore's campaign strategy, current polls, and Carly Fiorina, is below the fold. In the second and third parts we actually get into the issuesCalifornia and national issues, respectively. Those will go up tomorrow and Wednesday.
Gabriel Malor: Good afternoon, Assemblyman, its good to talk to you.
Chuck DeVore: Dont call me AssemblymanI used to work for a living and I deserve more respect than that. [Laughs.] In a play, of course on Boxers bit in front of the general.
Absolutely. So youre not opposed if someone refers to you as sir?
You know, I refer to everyone else as sir and maam because thats the way I was raised. And the way the drill sergeant would make me drop and beat my face into the ground if I didnt do it properly in military training, so...
My parents were the same way.
So I still do that. So, good to catch up with you.
I very much appreciate you talking with me. If you know anything at all about the blog you know we have about 100,000 daily unique readers. Were a very popular conservative blog and were all very interested in retaking seats in 2010.
As well you should be.
So lets get right down to it. I understand you have a very exacting schedule and that youve been splitting your time between Sacramento and campaigning. Where have you been lately and hows it going?
Well, I just came back from Lake Arrowhead, where I gave a speech to seven different Republican womens federated clubs. It wasgosh, I need to look it upI think it was my 122 speech since I started campaigning. I actually lost track of them a couple weeks ago and I had to get back to my matrix to see where we were. I tweeted it out just before I left.
Yes, 122123, actually. 122 was last night. Ive got another one tomorrow and another one Sunday. So that will be my 124th and 125th.
Thats a lot of work. Have you noticed, is there a differencein terms of your constituency back in the 70th and people in the rest of the stateare people interested in the same issues wherever you go?
Well, there are variations. First of all, because of Californias crushing unemployment rate, made worse because of our witches brew of, of really if you combine our regulatory burden with our tax burden were the worst in the country according to Forbes. So that is the overriding concern everywhere you go.
But, if youre in Central California water is always a concern. Finessing the problem with immigration such that when we fix the borders that we have an adequate guest worker programthats obviously a big issue with the agricultural heartland of California.
When you get down to Southern California, again illegal immigration is a concern, but less so on the guest worker front because, of course, theyre not dependent on that form of labor in Southern California as much as they are in the Central Valley. Water is often a concern, but not as urgent.
But, pretty much everywhere you go its about tax and regulatory burdens, trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. And, what Ive noticed, since I started doing this inyknow I declared very early, just after the November elections.
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Why so early?
Well, Ill get to that. But to finish this thought, my first official speech on the campaign trail was on the seventeenth of November. And so, at that speech and the ones shortly afterward, what I found was growing urgency as people began to understand what Obama was doing and the Democrats and the national-level Congress were doing such that the crowds just kept growing and growing and growing.
And now that Ive been doing this long enough, organizers of events tell me that its the biggest crowds theyve ever had for a speaker. And they attribute it universally in equal measures between the urgency because of the President and because of the word of mouth about my candidacy.
Related to that, Im sure you saw the March 2009 Field Poll which asked California voters about possible challengers to Senator Boxer. And they asked about three possible Republicans: you, of course; Ms. Fiorina; and Governor Schwarzenegger. Now, in that poll 93% were able to express an opinioneither good or badabout the Governor. 41% were able to rate Ms. Fiorina. But only 18% had an opinion about you. So what are you doing to change that?
Well, have you seen the Daily Kos-sponsored poll that came out a week and a half ago that also went into that level of detail? You need to. Because what youll see in that poll, which was taken about two weeks ago now, which then had the benefit of another six months, seven months of diligence what you found was that among Republicans Fiorinas name was up to somewhere around 46%. Where was she with the Field?
She was at 41% in March.
So it was about 46%. And mine was, I think 42%. Just a few points behind her. If not 42, then 43. And my positive-to-negative ratio at least among all voters was slightly better than hers, although certainly within the statistical ability of the poll.
And so what that shows me is that Ive more than doubled my name ID through the work that weve been doing. Obviously when youre buying ten million banner impressions at a time and youre on talk radio excessively, including the most popular talk radio show in the State of California: John and Ken Show on KFI. I was on that show in the last week-and-a-half five times. The last time I was on for half an hour, which if you look at the equivalent earned media value of that on that show given they have a million listeners, its about $80,000.
And so, I would maintain that our strategy of leveraging the fact that as a lawmaker I can generate earned media and as someone who is pretty good on the radio and has something to say, I am a frequent guest. This is a tool that Im very comfortable with and that Ive been using quite frequently all over the state. I think its had its effect as evidenced by that poll that I highly commend to you.
Definitely, I will check it out. [Editor's Note: The results of the Daily Kos poll referenced by the Assemblyman are here.]
So, yeah, theres that and then all these appearances. There has been a fair amount of word-of-mouth that has been generated by the fact that weve gotten in front of about 22,000 people now just through basic retail, the day-by-day politics. Weve managed to sell 2000 bumper stickers and when you sell them they typically go on cars and the algorithm for bumper stickers that actually get put on cars is theyre worth about $200 bucks a piece in advertising when they actually go on the car.
Well I have to say, I was at a BBQ a few weekends ago and your name came up. So some people seem to know who you are. But my question isits got to be frustratingMs. Fiornia, shes kind of an outsider to California politics. She comes in with some name recognition because of the election last year. Do you think its going to be a tough primary?
Im looking forward to it. Frankly, I think that her entrance into the race will greatly enhance my likelihood of being able to beat Boxer. Without her in the race, the race will not attract nearly as much national attention, nor will it attract as much attention even within Republican ranks.
With her in the raceI belive shes got some pretty glaring weaknesses. As someone who has never run for office herself before, shes going to get a very rapid awakening to political process. And, yknow, in my own case having been vetted before in a very tough election five years ago, where I was outspent a million dollars to half a million and won by 20 points I had the kitchen sink thrown at me. Yknow, I certainly know what its like and Ive already been through that process.
I believe that her imminent entrance into the race is a great sign for the Republican Party of California and it boosts my chances of winning in the general because if I beat her in the primaryas I fully expect tothats going to be a national news story. Whereas, if it was just me and a few also-rans, no one would be paying attention at all.
Its clear that youre in it. My understanding is shes opened an exploratory committee. Is she actually in this yet?
We are hearing numerous indications through our intelligence network that she is accreting staff. Shes hired Fred Davis, the guy that made the Barack Obama celebrity of the world ad. Shes hired Marty Wilson, who was Schwarzeneggers big fundraiser for many years and Ben Miller, who works with Marty Wilson.
The challenge, of course, that folks like Wilson are going to have is that the donation limit for governor is about eleven times what it is for U.S. Senate and you can take corporate money. So the dynamics for raising money for the Senate are dramatically different than they are for raising money for a guy with 99.9 percent name ID with certainly, unarguably Hollywood star appeal. Its very different.
What weve found with Carly Fiorina is that the average rank-and-file Republican has kind of a vague recollection of her. Shes well-known within the high-tech communitynot entirely positively, I might add.
Because of the HP thing
Exactly. And known within Republican activist circlesagain not entirely positivelybecause she was exiled from the latter days of the McCain campaign for having made a series of gaffes. So, certainly there is a segment in D.C. that thinks shes great and is under the misapprehension that shes going to bring all this money to the race from her own wallet and that shes going to apply star power and get out there and win.
What Im finding among the grassroots is that most of the folks that Im speaking to have no clue who she is and are wanting to hear from her and to understand what her views are and maybe have her come out and speak to them.
Thats whyto follow up on your question from much earlierthats why I started this campaign shortly after the election. I knew, being a non-billionaire, non-celebrity who has an established record and is very comfortable speaking with large or small crowds or on talk radio or whatever that what I needed to do was get out there and let people know what I believe and where I thought we need to move the state and to listen to them and their concerns and to invite them to join our campaign. Because I knew that every day that went by was an opportunity. If I got in front of a few people and got a few of those folks to sign up to our campaign and sign up on Twitter or Facebook or on my website that once I started to communicate with them Id be able to get their support. Thats why we have over 12,000 donors now to our campaign.
This is the campaign that I believethe state of technology today, now that the Internet has had a chance to mature since Al Gore invented itwe can really leverage technology in a way that allows for an efficiently-run grassroots campaign in a way that was not possible fifteen years ago when you had rolodexes and telephones and really couldnt do the sort of networking that you can now accomplish.
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