Ron Nehring is taking one for the team, the Republican team, by stepping into the lieutenant governor’s race. That’s an honorable choice. But I wonder if he and his party might be better off if they sat this one out.
Nehring’s view is that the California GOP, as a statewide party, needs to have a candidate for each statewide office. California needs a debate on the issues, and it’s hard to have such debates without candidates. Nehring told me via email that he’d support reform to allow the governor and lieutenant governor ran on a ticket, as is done in other states. But for now, in California in 2014, lieutenant governor is a separate office and the GOP needs a candidate, and so he is running.
I see this differently. I can understand how the logic of fielding a strong candidate for every race may apply to other statewide races, but lieutenant governor is an exception. It’s a nothing job. And having a thoughtful person like Nehring run for governor is a waste of time and resources. Essentially, he’s spending time running a race he probably can’t win for an office that we could do without.
As every occupant of the office has acknowledged, a lieutenant governor doesn’t have much to do. Yes, there are some boards to serve on, but the core of the job is to be prepared to sub for the governor. Gavin Newsom has done about as much with the job as you politically can – including attending every possible meetings and writing a thoughtful book – but the former San Francisco mayor seems diminished by the job.
Indeed, it’s a waste for someone of Newsom’s caliber to spend time in the job. And it would be a waste for Nehring in the unlikely event he won. The job should be abolished – with either the attorney general or secretary of state serving as successor in the event that anything happened to the governor. If the job must be filled, it would be better to give it to someone who knows how sit around and not do much. Any number of journalists, including yours truly, would make great lieutenant governors.
The Republicans, instead of putting up a candidate, should make a decision not to field a candidate for a pointless office—and then advertise that decision. The GOP could say: “we don’t intend to waste our time and resources on wasteful things. The lieutenant governor’s office is a waste, and we’re against waste.” A non-candidacy would match the message.