While his opponents think his political future is fading to black,
Orange County Superior Court Judge Jim Gray is aiming to be the dark
horse in the U.S. Senate race.
Boxer, the 59-year-old Newport Beach resident has kept up a vigorous
campaign schedule that included visits to medical marijuana clinics
in Northern California, speaking engagements in South Central Los
Angeles and taping television ads that will air the week before the
Nov. 2 election.
Though his opponents have largely dismissed him, Gray's positions
are bold. If elected, Gray said he would want to see U.S. troops
pulled out of Iraq by the end of the year. He's also opposed to the
so-called war on drugs and the Patriot Act, and he wants to get the
federal government out of public education and health care.
And he may be the choice of close to 10% of likely voters. A poll
he requested showed him at 8%, and he said he's heard higher numbers.
"People are listening," Gray said. "Libertarians are elated about
this election. Libertarians have never been above 2%, and we have
almost two months to go."
While he's been embraced by Libertarians, Gray said his defection
from the GOP -- of which he was a lifelong member until announcing
his senate candidacy -- hasn't provoked a backlash from Republicans.
"They're concerned that I will take away votes from [Republican
candidate] Bill Jones, and my direct, honest response to them is Bill
Jones has no chance of beating Barbara Boxer," Gray said.
Gray's popularity in a poll he commissioned, however, wasn't
enough to get him into a League of Women Voters-sponsored debate
earlier this month, and that really hurt his campaign, he said.
Both his major party opponents have scads more campaign money than
Gray, who said he's pulled in about $200,000. July financial reports
showed Jones has raised about $3.3 million, and Boxer netted $11.8
million in this election cycle.
People would take more notice of Gray's candidacy if he could be
in a debate, but even that wouldn't give him enough of a boost to
defeat an incumbent senator in such a heavily Democratic state, said
Louis DeSipio, UC Irvine associate professor of political science.
"It seems to me that it would take a remarkable error on the part
of the Boxer campaign for Sen. Boxer to lose [her] lead," he said.
"She would have to do something to alienate a large part of her core
constituency, and she's a skilled politician."
But Libertarians don't necessarily run for office to win; they
want to get their ideas into the debate, DeSipio said.
The party has a good spokesman in Gray, whose background in the
legal system gives him credibility, said Lawrence Samuels, the
northern vice-chairman for the Libertarian Party of California.
"We've got new members, new people. It's helped quite a bit,"
Samuels said of his candidacy.
The key to winning is getting his message out, Gray said, and he
has been trying to get his name included in polling by the Field Poll
and Public Policy Institute of California.
"I'm hoping that he gets somewhere around 8%, 9%, 10%, gets into
the debates and people take us seriously," Samuels said.
If things go as observers expect, after election day Gray will
return to his judgeship, from which he took a leave of absence to
In the meantime, he'll keep talking to groups he says don't have
much of a political voice.
"Somebody said recently, 'If God wanted us to vote, he would have
given us candidates,'" Gray said. "I'm trying to give them a
* ALICIA ROBINSON covers business, politics and the environment.
She may be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail at