Patricia McKeon, wife of 25th District Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon has formally announced her intention to run for the California 38th Assembly District. Cameron Smyth, who currently holds the seat, will be termed out in 2012.
Patricia McKeon refused to take questions or elaborate on her campaign, but did read a prepared statement:
“Hi, I’m really excited about the opportunity to make a difference in Sacramento. I love this community and I’m really honored to have received such positive support from the community. It’s going to be an exciting campaign and I can hardly wait to get out and meet our neighbors. Thanks so much.”
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Michael Cruz, Immediate Past President of the Democratic Club of the Santa Clarita Valley, was surprised by the announcement.
“I think it’s interesting because she’s got no community involvement or leadership, no real business and she’s never shown any interest it seems in local or state politics,” Cruz said.
Another Republican, Paul Strickland, who serves as the Field Deputy for Assembly Member Smyth believes he is qualified for the job after years of public service, but hasn’t formally announced his candidacy.
“I’m definitely considering running. When I’ve made that final determination, I will certainly announce it,” Strickland said.
Republican Scott Wilk, a member of the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees, has also made his candidacy known.
Cruz sees both of them as more viable candidates for office than McKeon.
“I know Paul. Nice guy. Unlike McKeon, he has shown an interest in local politics and state politics as an elected official and does have some experience. I think the same thing goes for Scott as well too. Local elected official. Shown an interest in state politics. Been involved there. I can see Paul and Scott jumping into it,” Cruz said.
Michael Kulka, President of the Democratic Alliance for Action sees all three as great candidates. To dispel what sounds like an endorsement for the rival party, Kulka clarified his definition of a great or good candidate versus a good representative.
“A great candidate is one who is going to garner the majority of the votes in a top two primary and go on to the general election and do the same thing…That’s a good candidate. A good Assembly person is one that is going to represent the district, not just the people who elected them,” Kulka said.
The failure of current local politicians, in Kulka’s mind, is a lack of representation of all the members of a district and not just those who financed the winning campaigns.
In terms of the Assembly race, Kulka sees name recognition as a factor for McKeon over Strickland and Wilks. He noted how Assembly Member Sharon Runner has been able to easily assume the elected positions of her husband George.
“They have the immediate advantage of name recognition. And that’s a big factor predominately, moreso in off year elections. And special elections that Sharon Runner just enjoyed. Where there’s an extremely low turnout. That was the only thing on the ballot,” Kukla said.
Kukla believes a general election will be a different matter because more voters become involved. Still he believes being related to someone who already holds office should not be a negative factor in an election.
“I wouldn’t want to rule out someone just because they’re related to someone. That’s not necessarily something that would disqualify someone. I would want to get to know them on their individual merits on things that might be a negative to someone like myself,” Kukla said.
He admits, though, that there is a danger of electing a carbon copy politician.
“And getting less and less detailed the more carbon copies you go back,” Kukla said.
There is also the issue of the war chest a candidate brings who is related to a known politician.
“I’m not sure of the campaign finance laws and how Buck McKeon’s campaign committee could contribute to wife’s campaign committee. I’m not sure what those rules are,” Kukla said.
However, money raises a different issue for Cruz regarding McKeon’s candidacy.
“You’ve got to wonder to why she’s taking a pay cut. Because on Congressman McKeon’s staff she gets paid from $105,000 to $110,000 a year and last time I checked an Assembly Member only makes $97,000.00 a year,” Cruz said.
Congressman McKeon’s office confirmed Patricia has worked for her husband for 10 years as Campaign Treasurer and is paid $78,000.00 a year.
Certainly, being politically connected is one advantage to having a politician in the family. Fifth District Supervisor Michael Antonovich has already thrown his support for McKeon.
Candidate Scott Wilk did not return calls for comment.