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Gov. Dukakis Bullish on California

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis says the results of November’s election will turn the country and the state of California in a positive direction. Dukakis is teaching the winter quarter at UCLA, as he has for 18 years, and dropped by the offices of public affairs consulting firm, Cerrell Associates, in Los Angeles last week for a discussion with Cerrell employees and invited guests.

Like many analysts who looked at the election results, Dukakis noted the demographic changes that seemed to buoy Democratic Party hopes while making the road to victory more difficult for Republicans. Dukakis said he lost California to George H. W. Bush in 1988 (the last Republican presidential nominee to win the state) by 2-percent. He compared that to Barack Obama’s landslide 21-percent win over another former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Dukakis said that the Democratic advantage over Republicans came in two forms – one, the aforementioned demographic changes and the other, the better organized ground game that Democrats have put together. It is old-fashioned politics, the governor said, setting up precinct captains in every precinct and creating a team of lieutenants to oversee door-to-door campaigning. He said newly elected Massachusetts United States Senator, Elizabeth Warren, won her tough election over sitting senator, Scott Brown, because of the ground game.

Dukakis said it was eager volunteers, many college students, who made the difference for Democrats in a lot of races around the country. He dismissed the notion that Democratic Party grassroots efforts are simply made up of union members and public employees.

Certainly, those groups don’t make up the entire grassroots efforts that the Democrats employ, however, I would argue those support groups give the Democrats a built in foundation for a superior grassroots network.

Dukakis was positive about Governor Jerry Brown’s strong standing in California post November’s election.  Dukakis thinks Brown is in good position to move the state in the direction he wants to go. Dukakis also supports Brown’s push for a high-speed rail.

Dukakis said the media often compared Brown with him when both first won their governorships in 1974 but Dukakis said that they were two different types of politicians in those days.

I would think that the Governor Brown of today might be considered more into the policy trenches often associated with the former Massachusetts governor.

Dukakis applauded California’s new budget proposal. He dismissed talk of a major exodus from California to other states like Texas that are trying to attract the state’s businesses. “Have you ever spent a summer in Houston?” he asked.

I told the governor of a connection we had, besides both being raised in Massachusetts. During the 1988 campaign, the League of Women Voters pulled out as sponsors of the Los Angeles presidential debate and as president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation at the time, we helped fund the alternate debate, which was moved to the campus of UCLA.

We discussed the fact that the League pulled out over stated concerns that the campaigns were interfering with debate preparations. The governor said the lesson he learned from that experience that he shared with Democratic candidate Bill Clinton four years later was not to constantly negotiate about debates with the other camp. Set up the rules in the beginning and just show up.

Governor Dukakis, who turns 80 this year, looked more like he had just turned 60, with strong opinions expressed in a strong voice.

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