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The Hottest Reality Game Show of the Summer Has No Winners

by Kirsten Andersen

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Summer’s hottest new reality show has just debuted -- it’s called “Who Wants to Govern a Failing State?” California’s current Governor, Gray Davis, stands to be “voted off the island” in the October 7 recall election, and literally hundreds of contestants are vying to take his place.

As in any good reality game show, the cast of characters ranges from salacious exhibitionists (Larry Flynt, porn star Marey Carey) to backstabbing opportunists (Arianna Huffington, Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante) to the more serious contestants (State Senator Tom McClintock, Governor Davis) who will struggle to grab headlines from their entertaining competition (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gary Coleman).


Already, contestants are dropping like flies. Congressman Darrell Issa, who financed the recall movement with nearly $2 million of his own money and who was once considered a front-runner to replace Davis, quit the race yesterday, as did former Congressman Michael Huffington and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. In a foreshadowing of the surreal eight weeks to come, all three endorsed Schwarzenegger, the action movie star who announced his candidacy on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Wednesday night and declared his intention to “pump . . . Sacramento up.”

But even with three of the top contenders gone from the race, there remains a terribly long list of people who are angling for their eight weeks in the spotlight. Well over 100 Californians, including a rest stop janitor, a recent high school graduate, and Los Angeles billboard icon “Angelyne” have entered the race.

With so many people lining up to pay the $3,500 filing fee and collect just 65 signatures each (the minimum requirements to place your name on the ballot), it has almost become easier to ask, “Who’s NOT running for California governor?” Long-time readers of this column will be disappointed to learn that perennial loudmouth and political agitator Barbra Streisand, being undoubtedly too cheap to cough up $3,500, is not. The entertainment value of a Streisand candidacy alone would probably be worth paying her filing fee, though. I mean, imagine a Streisand vs. Schwarzenegger debate. No, really. Just imagine it for a second. Then, clean up the coffee you sprayed all over your computer monitor and finish reading this article.

In all seriousness, though, “Who Wants to Govern a Failing State?” is a game with no winners. Sure, if the recall goes through on October 7, someone will capture maybe 10% or 15% of the votes, which will be more than anybody else got, and that person will be declared the champion. But he or she will have “won” a state that is well on its way down the tubes, and there will be nothing he or she can do to stop it. California’s problems run much deeper than the Governor’s office -- through the halls of the Senate, the Assembly, and every last bureaucracy in the state. The person who is awarded the responsibility of cleaning up the mess will fail -- and will leave office hated by everyone in California who didn’t vote for him (or her), which will almost certainly be a very, very solid majority. In the long run, the winner loses. And so will California.

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