Felons Make Lineup for State’s Presidential Primary

Times Staff Writer

Yeah, yeah, the Iowa presidential caucus is coming this month, democracy thrives in the cornfields, yada, yada, yada.

But for big names and a big state, check out the final lineup of candidates on the ballot for California’s March presidential primary.

The deadline for appearing on or disappearing from the ballot has just passed, and the candidates who made the final cut are: one Republican -- the incumbent, George W. Bush -- three Libertarians, one American Independent, two Peace and Freedom members and four Green Party members, including Peter Camejo, who ran for governor twice in two years -- in 2002 and in the recall.


There are 10 Democrats -- the familiar ones and the 81-year-old, eighth-time’s-a-charm permanent presidential candidate, Lyndon LaRouche. In 1992, he ran for president for the fifth time -- from a prison cell, where he was serving five years for tax evasion, mail fraud and conspiracy.

A candidate who will have to campaign from a prison cell this time is Peace and Freedom hopeful Leonard Peltier, the American Indian activist serving a life sentence in Leavenworth, Kan. He was convicted of killing two FBI agents in 1975 near Wounded Knee, S.D. He has been trying since 1986 to get a parole hearing.

Making a brief appearance on the candidate list -- but pulled from it at the last minute by his own party, Peace and Freedom -- was Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Pennsylvania death row inmate controversially convicted of murdering a police officer.

After California’s Oct. 7 recall election, with nearly seven score candidates, one would think that there was no fastidiousness left. (Porn publisher Larry Flynt’s obscenity conviction was reversed and a contempt of court charge was dismissed.)

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley begs to differ. “No one,” he said, “is more repulsed and outraged by this notion than I am.”

But Shelley said that legal advisors had told him he is required “to place these felons on the ballot.” Nor is it in his job description, he says, “to attempt to save any political party from its folly.”


Nonetheless, Shelley said he found it “repugnant that the leaders of the Peace and Freedom Party have taken this indefensible action.”

So stay tuned -- Shelley said he will carry legislation to change the law to keep “this travesty from ever occurring again.”

The best known prison cell campaign was waged in 1920 by Socialist and labor leader Eugene V. Debs, a five-time candidate for president.

In 1912, Debs got 6% in a four-way presidential race. He was convicted of “insubordination” and “obstruction” and sent to prison in 1919 for praising colleagues who had denounced the World War I military draft.

Debs’ campaign buttons declared, “For President Convict No. 9653.” He got nearly a million votes, and was pardoned in 1921 by President Harding.

Peltier, like Debs, can run for president, but he cannot, as a felon, vote for himself.

Actor Said to Think About Mayoral Run

And now for something not at all completely different -- an actor who may run for public office.

News reports quote Monty Pythonist Michael Palin as saying that his co-star, John Cleese, is thinking of running for mayor of Santa Barbara. Cleese, who also starred in the acclaimed “Fawlty Towers” series, in a number of films and recently as a ghost in the Harry Potter films, has a home in Montecito.

This trail has, of course, been blazed by their honors Clint Eastwood (Carmel) and Sonny Bono (Palm Springs), and more grandly and recently by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The news generated minor volleys of Web chatter, among them, “I DO live in California though, and frankly am tired of famous people running the state just because they are famous people,” and this: “I thought he already was an official at the Ministry of Silly Walks. Can you hold two offices at once?”

Federal Menu Reflects State’s Appetite for Pork

It’s a seasonal dish -- pork -- the season being winter on Capitol Hill. The federal spending bill is 1,182 pages long, and somewhere in it, on this year’s menu of projects that California legislators snagged the public bucks to pay for are:

* $50 million for a federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

* $225,000 for a youth center in Groveland, in the Sierra.

* $3.1 million for a pedestrian bridge to link Yorba Linda’s main street to a shopping center and the Richard Nixon Library.

* $324,000 for a literacy program in a school district near Sacramento, and a thousand dollars more -- $325,000 -- toward the $10-million price tag to replace a 50-year-old public swimming pool in Salinas.

California comes in 47th in per-capita spending in last year’s big bill, a piker compared with No. 1 Alaska, whose senior senator, Ted Stevens, heads the Senate Appropriations Committee and has a reputation as a mighty hunter of paper pork.

Antonovich’s Website Is No Glum Official Page

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who spent years as a reserve police officer in South Pasadena, has put on the uniform of a military reservist, as a lieutenant colonel assigned to liaise -- hideous government verb -- with other elected officials.

He stands out among the generally duller ranks of the office-holding world, and his website is no glum official page, but practically a chat room and family album. It offers restaurant ratings and lists of restaurant closures by health authorities, photos of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists and the whereabouts of registered sex offenders.

There’s an online shopping opportunity at Skeletons in the Closet, the Los Angeles County coroner’s gift shop. (No joke -- shop now, for the hereafter.)

And not only are there pictures of his children, but a long list of Kodak moments one can choose from -- “Attending Tevan’s nephew’s wedding ... Legoland November 2003” -- to be viewed as Laurel and Hardy dance on screen to their squeaky theme music, “The KuKu Song.”

You Can Quote Me

“Anybody who registers with the cops is crazy.”

-- Dennis Peron, a driving force behind Proposition 215, the medical marijuana measure, commenting on a new state law permitting Californians who use medical marijuana for a variety of ailments to get state-issued identification cards recognized by law enforcement officials. Quoted in the Sacramento Bee.


Patt Morrison’s columns appear Mondays and Tuesdays. Her e-mail address is