The big question about California politics isn’t who’s running for office, but who hasn’t?

Our fair state has always attracted a spectacular array of oddball candidates, ranging from the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, who recently ran for mayor of San Francisco and rocker Joe Walsh, who was a tongue-in-cheek presidential aspirant, to Lowell Darling, a 1978 gubernatorial candidate who advocated populating zoos with people dressed in animal costumes.

But you don’t even have to be a pop celebrity to harbor political ambitions these days. Just ask Tom Hopke, a 35-year-old local musician who’s running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket for Congress in the 23rd District.

Using the motto, “Towards a more natural and spiritual environment,” the obscure singer-songwriter hopes to unseat five-term incumbent Democrat Anthony C. Beilenson this November with a nouvelle -radical platform that he says offers an alternative, in both politics and life style, to traditional politics. Hopke kicks off his campaign Monday night at the Club Lingerie with an 8 o’clock press conference that will be followed by a concert featuring Hopke and his five-piece band.


This being Southern California, the combination press conference/concert isn’t the only unusual facet here. A follower of a Krishna sect called Vedanta, Hopke spent eight years living in an ashram, worked as a professional astrologer (“I’ve done charts for Sting and Nina Hagen”) and is an ardent vegetarian, saying “what you eat determines your consciousness.”

He also straddles the political spectrum, advocating a nuclear freeze and alloting free government land for the needy while also favoring capital punishment and opposing abortion. Hopke also proposes a “gradual return” to the gold standard: “I don’t believe in paper money.” (Hopke added that he’s running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket even though “we don’t really agree on a lot of issues--it was just easier to get on the ballot with them.”)

Hopke acknowledges that these stands “externally sound a little far-out” and may inhibit his “getting votes immediately,” but he insists that his campaign is an “idealistic effort” to represent today’s rock generation.

“I’ve always been interested in politics,” Hopke said. “I was active in the anti-war protests of the ‘60s. Then I ran for mayor of Phoenix in the ‘70s, where I got 1,000 votes, which was surprising to me. I was only expecting about 20.”


Of course, Hopke admits that his campaign is also geared toward advancing his musical career, noting that a lot of important music industry execs reside in the 23rd Congressional District. “I figure the political campaign can only add to my marketability,” he said. “I think my music is very competitive with what’s out there now--I’d describe it as similar to Tom Petty or John Cougar Mellencamp-style American rock.”

So far, Hopke hasn’t won a great deal of attention from record company talent scouts. And the campaign has started slowly too--Hopke says he’s only received one $100 contribution so far.

But he’s optimistic. “I’ve got some good ideas and I figure it’s my duty to broadcast them,” he said. Still, if he had to choose between a political career or rock stardom, he’d take the record contract. “I don’t see why I couldn’t do both,” he said. “I mean, if I had a constituency to represent, I wouldn’t go out and tour every night.”