California Loses Two Political Mensches

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist


The California political scene has lost two of the good guys—Ross Bates and Allan Hoffenblum. Ross was a long-time Democratic consultant and Alan was a Republican strategist who left partisan politics to establish the California Target Book, an indispensable compendium of facts and statistics on legislative and congressional races in the Golden State. The two men were political opposites, but both were stellar examples of sociologist Max Weber’s observation that “Politics means a slow, powerful drilling through hard boards, with a mixture of passion and a sense of proportion.”

Allan was a USC grad and lifelong Republican—his mother worked for Ronald Reagan. He served in Viet Nam and was staff director of the GOP Assembly Caucus in Sacramento. He later ran one of the state’s most prolific campaign firms. In recent years, Allan was best known as publisher of the Target Book. Allan, along with Republican political guru Stu Spencer, became an outspoken critic of his party’s failure to bring Latino and gay voters into the GOP fold.   Allan was excitable and passionate about politics. He was a “go-to quote” for journalists who wanted frank political opinions and not canned sound bites. To the end, he fulminated about Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has alienated so many Asian and Latino voters.

Ross was a product of UCLA activism in the 1960s and 1970s—the same incubator that produced hard-nosed progressives including Henry Waxman, Howard Berman and a host of others who have played important roles in shaping California’s Democratic politics.   One of his first involvements was the U.S. Senate campaign of California Congressman George Brown—an anti-Viet Nam war candidate.   Ross cut his teeth working with Michael Berman—Howard’s brother and an incisive political strategist—on dozens of legislative and congressional campaigns. Then Ross relocated to Washington, D.C., where, for twenty years, he ran a successful consulting firm, specializing in liberal, non-profit causes and Democratic district races all over the country. In recent years, Ross moved back to the West Coast. Quiet and low key, as political consultants go, Ross was re-emerging as a campaign strategist to be reckoned with in California.

Ross and Allan may not have even known each other, but both loved the political game, fought hard to win it and—through all the bruising combat–stuck to their principles. Neither ever got full of himself, the way too many political consultants do. Both passed away in recent weeks–just as the 2016 political season was getting into high gear.

Weber, again: “There are two ways of making politics one’s vocation,” he said. “Either one lives ‘for’ politics or one lives ‘off’ politics. By no means is this contrast an exclusive one. The rule is, rather, that man does both, at least in thought, and certainly he also does both in practice.” Allan and Ross certainly did both.

In today’s increasingly self-indulgent political world, there aren’t enough real professionals—in the best sense of the word—practitioners like Ross Bates and Allan Hoffenblum. They were indeed “mensches” and will be missed.

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